A Quiet American Jew

A Quiet American Jew

by Heather Libman Kafetz

I have always been a quiet American Jew. I am not religious. I am not kosher. My children do not go to a Jewish day school, and I do not go to synagogue on most Shabbats. Instead, I quietly celebrate the high holidays, quietly respond “thank you” when a stranger wishes me a Merry Christmas at Hannukah time, quietly pray to Gd when I am really desperate and quietly thank Gd for all of the blessings in my life. Quietly try to instill a love of Judaism in my children, while quietly hoping that they will gain this love without putting in much effort. And certainly, I never publicly declare or display my love of Judaism or Israel, because, after all, I am just a quiet American Jew.

So why is a quiet American Jew so deeply affected by the atrocities in Israel? Why is the pain of a quiet American Jew so deep? Am I even entitled to feel so heartbroken or to express my anger and frustration when I am just a quiet American Jew? I don’t know that I can articulate the answers to these questions, as the answers are deeply rooted in the fabric of every Jew. Of course, as a human being, the horrors committed upon the Jewish people should elicit heartbreak and outrage in any decent person. Surely, if a quiet American Jew can recognize this, everyone should, right?

But, more than outrage and heartbreak from one human being to another, there is something else happening to this quiet American Jew, something so much more. Something has awakened inside of me. A profound love and connection to my people, to my brothers and sisters in Israel, and to the generations who came before me. The knowledge that anti-semitism lives in the loud actions of our enemies, but also in the quiet silence of some neighbors and friends. A deep connection to a strong community coming together in unity, both Jews and non-Jews alike, as my feelings of loneliness turn to solidarity. A bravery and resilience of my people that I had only read about and heard stories of, but now have the honor of witnessing firsthand. And most importantly, I have awakened to the realization that I no longer have the luxury of being a quiet American Jew. None of us do.

-Heather Kafetz