Malkie Hirsch on Masada with a friend from TJJ Moms

By Malkie Gordon Hirsch

I truly feel like I owe my grandmother an apology.

Sadly, she passed away in May, so I don’t get to express my regrets in person, but I’ve been thinking about her more often, due to what’s been going on lately.

In a way, I am relieved that a woman who survived the Holocaust at such a young age didn’t have to witness all the recent happenings in this truly upside-down world we live in.

That she didn’t have the dormant trauma reawaken within her and take ahold of a fear that most likely she has been carrying inside of her during the duration of her life.

That knowledge that only someone who has gone through such atrocities can understand—that no matter how much you think you can count on others on the most basic human level, you simply can’t.

Because some people have been raised to hate you before they’ve even had a chance to meet you.

And others are uneducated and uninformed and enjoy verbally torturing people they don’t know from behind a computer screen while ensconced safely within the comfort of their home.

You see, I know antisemitism has been an issue ever since there have been Jews roaming the earth, but I just felt like it didn’t apply to us anymore.

Not like it had in the past, anyway.

I felt like, at this point in time, in 2023, in a predominantly Jewish community in Long Island and in other regions, humans have evolved with the times.

We have developed new age progressive values that support other cultures and understand that different isn’t bad. It’s just simply not the same.

That it’s okay to coexist and appreciate various ways we live life and practice religion, but that doesn’t give anyone the right to destroy others because their practices might be different from yours.

And that although the world is weighing in about the cause (not that there ever is cause for such barbarism) under this thinly veiled dispute over land, occupation, and colonization, lies the truth—it’s got nothing to do with that and everything to do with a culture whose charter has made its life mission to hate and destroy as many Jews as possible.

As Golda Meir famously stated, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us.”

Sadly, we’re nowhere near that reality.

To add insult to injury, the world watched this happen while an embarrassingly large number of people cheered on the animals who spent years planning this attack.

Just when you think you’ll get support after witnessing the number of people murdered, injured, kidnapped, attacked, and killed in more ways than they might have even thought of in Nazi Germany, that’s when the response that looks nothing like you thought it would, appears and breaks your heart.

That’s when village courthouse lawns a few minutes from “home” and the college campuses where we send our Jewish kids to learn are filled with swarms of people proudly waving flags belonging to the terrorist groups that did this atrocity, that remain triumphant over the extermination of innocent people.

Since October 7, not a day has gone by where I don’t break down at some point or another and truly understand that this was exactly what my grandparents went through before the war.

Europe felt like home. This, my only known home, has felt the same.

Jews were welcomed with open arms, they set up their lives, established their businesses, and raised their families.

Things became uncomfortable but they remained because of all the comforts they potentially had to lose.

The property and money and family. There was the question we now are asking ourselves that I am sure they once asked themselves as well: They can’t do this, can they? Can they? Can they?

And then they were massacred in ditches that were mass graves in what were once beautiful forests near the homes they couldn’t bear to leave.

How many people protected and stood up for my grandparents when they had nowhere to turn?

Did their neighbors take them in or turn away in fear or worse, contempt?

It’s terrifying that I could be thinking the things that I’m thinking, but tell me one person who hasn’t been doing the same thing. Tell me that despite everything happening in Israel that you wouldn’t rather be there.

Because that’s how I feel.

I don’t feel safe the way I used to, and for the first time ever, I feel what my grandmother must have felt all those years ago.

How things happened almost too slowly over time, starting from when she was a baby and little child until she found herself hiding for her survival in the cellar of a former neighbor’s home.

We’ve gotten so good at brushing off these overtly antisemitic events, the off-colored statements we use in comedy to make it more palatable, because it’s a part of our life like it’s our DNA.

But there’s nothing funny about this. Not then and certainly not now.

I apologize to my grandmother for never truly understanding what the extermination of 6 million Jews actually meant.

I grew up hearing the words, but never took them in until now.

I heard her story and stories of countless others, stories of immense loss, shock at what was happening around them, and finally, resignation and a fierce determination to survive the unthinkable.

When I hear about families being murdered in our Jewish homeland 80 years later, it’s too much to take in.

I know what the ripple effect feels like for one loss within a family.

I know how it changes the family dynamic for generations.

But for it to be the result of a terrorist attack in our modern day, and for others to justify these killings?

To encourage and celebrate such an event makes me want to leave and never come back.

There is not one person who hasn’t been affected by what has happened.

At times, I wonder what G-d wants. I open my eyes and see everyone regardless of their frumkeit or hashkafah working together to help those directly impacted like our family in Israel.

That’s what we are, after all.

We’re one big crazy family and when we’re under pressure, we stick together.

We start collections, we raise millions for aid, we establish Tehillim groups.

We take on new chasadim, we do outreach for others who want to try their hand at it, too.

You’d have to be blind not to see the goodness happening in the midst of this nightmare.

It’s the thing I focus on when I feel myself going back into that tailspin of denial, of disbelief at what we’re going through.

“Those that perished in Hitler’s gas chambers were the last Jews to die without standing up for themselves.”—Golda Meir

 

Malkie Gordon Hirsch is a native of the Five Towns community, a mom of 5, a writer, and a social media influencer.

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