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Have we Jews around the world changed, and if so, how, in light of all that has happened. Are we different than we were six months and one week ago?

This is a segment from The “Here and There” Edition.


Now it’s time for our second discussion, which we are calling “Us There,” and here’s why.

Star arts writer and friend of the podcast Judy Maltz has an impressive new piece in the paper.

It’s what in online journalism jargon is called a “package,” meaning that it combines texts and graphics and photos and audio and video to get its message across.

And it’s called “Six Months on How October 7th and the Gaza War Transformed Jews Around the Globe.”

Judy introduces the piece like this, “On the morning of October 7th, while Hamas terrorists were perpetrating a massacre along Israel’s Gaza border, most Jews around the world had no idea what was going on.

Some were offline because it was both Shabbat and the Jewish holiday of Shmini Atzeret.

Many others were still asleep.

It would take hours to catch up on the news and then days to grasp the enormity of the massacre.

Twelve hundred slaughtered, thousands more injured, 240 taken hostage.

For the first time in its history, a swath of Israeli territory had been captured by enemy forces.

Worldwide, Jews responded with a mix of horror, disbelief, anguish, dread, and rage.

As details of the atrocities emerged, many drew parallels with the Holocaust.

And then came the Israeli response, a war in Gaza that caused mass destruction, starvation, and the deaths of thousands upon thousands of Palestinian civilians, with Israel facing charges of genocide in the International Court of Justice.

The longest war since Israel achieved its independence in 1948, it has also taken the lives of hundreds of young Israeli soldiers and unleashed a wave of global anti-Semitism.

The likes of which has not been seen in nearly 80 years.

Hardly a Jew in the world has been left untouched.

For many, it’s been transformational, radically changing the way they see the world, their sense of Jewish identity, and their relationship with Israel.

Disagreements over who bears responsibility and how Israel should have responded have split families and broken up relationships.

What happened has turned anti-Zionists into Zionists and Zionists into anti-Zionists.

And it has turned Jews and non-Jews against one another and deepened the generational divide within an already fractured community.

It has prompted some Jews to wear starved David necklaces.

Others have removed the mezzuzot on their doorposts.”

What follows that are interviews with and stories about 25 Jews from around the world, a very diverse group.

A social welfare worker named Elizabeth Scherstuk from Ukraine, a PhD student from Sydney named Adam Levy, a queer medical assistant from Massachusetts named Raviv Rose, a scholar from Istanbul named Rivka Bahar-Valdman, a sportscaster from Buenos Aires named Hernan Feller, a teacher named Asimwe Rabin Rivbin from the Abu Dhaia community in Uganda, a trans rabbi from Pennsylvania named Rebecca Slotkauer, and many more, together making, as Benetton-Ready, a group of two and a half mignons of Jews, as you are ever likely to see, representing all sorts of approaches to observance, to politics, to gender, and to life.

As Judy wrote, the reactions she catalogs towards what happened on October 7th and since vary enormously.

But, as Judy also wrote, for many of them, the past six months have been transformational in a way that maybe feels as though what it means for Jews around the world to be Jews around the world has changed and maybe for forever.

So, Miriam, you live here like I do, but in your job and in your life, you hear from lots and lots and lots of Jews from around the world.

I’m not going to ask you to try to describe overall the transformation they’ve undergone.

We can leave that for historians 50 years from now to argue about.

But what are some of the transformations that some of the people have experienced that you think matter in particular and maybe might endure, leaving world Jewry different than it was six months and one week ago?

Well, one piece that I published, summed it up in the headline as “The Return of Jewish Fear.”

And the experience of our fellow Jews abroad has been really tremendous and quite dramatic.

And I want to just first say before we even talk about exactly what they’re going through, I just want to say what I’m going through towards them, which is, first of all, just this tremendous sense of love, actually.

I just saw a demonstration with posters where they wrote, “Our family is torn.”

And I feel that as so much not a flat slogan, as just like a perfect encapsulation of the relationship that I feel.

It includes actual family living there, but really this sense of a family.

I noticed it from almost the very beginning, this sort of change in myself and a sense that it offers an opportunity to reset the relationship between Jewish Israel and the diaspora.

And some of those people that Judy Maltz interviewed were really, really fascinating to me.

I think the London psychiatrist and, oh my goodness, the Jews in London and in England are really in a very hard spot.

They have tremendous and justified fear.

You’re just talking about the dark thoughts that now are in his mind, you know, do you go to the synagogue or not?

And at the same time, we know that there is a whole world of Jewish progressivism that’s been challenged in a different way, like where this didn’t land as an attack on themselves, but rather an extension of how they view Israel as an occupying power and Palestinians as the eternal victim and Israel, therefore, as only having the possible role of oppressor and colonizer.

And watching that come very sharply to the surface, not that that wasn’t there.

There’s a whole sort of structure of organizational structure with the JVP and Stand With Us that are calling out this in such a very different way where it’s all very landing.

I think this call now of this moment is where Jews are being called to sort of position themselves in ways that they maybe didn’t feel the need to so much before.

Yeah, I feel a lot of what you described, and you described it really, really beautifully.

For me, fitting with my predilections, like the thing that’s most heartbreaking when I think about what people abroad are going through, and to me, it seems obvious that it’s much, much, much, much harder to be a Jew abroad now, especially a Jew who cares about Israel, who has people they love in Israel and who maybe loves the place than it is to be here in Israel.

You have all of the hard things and none of the wondrous things about being in Israel at this moment.

But the thing that most gets me are the parents who feel like there’s this chasm between them and their kids, this thing that if they’re lucky, they can manage to not talk about ever at all, and if they’re not lucky, then they’ll fight about it or maybe stop talking about it altogether.

And that is so heartbreaking to me.

And just as you have much more contact than me, but just because of this podcast, I bet that I’ve heard from 100 and I don’t know, maybe 500 people who have written to say, “How can I convince my kids to stop hating Israel?”

I’ve heard it several times.

Or even more, just like, “I’ve lost my kids about this issue.”

And sometimes people write with anger towards me of like, “How is it that you can’t present an Israel that my kids could possibly find acceptable?

You’re part of the Israel that’s a problem.”

But most often it’s just this thing that seems so surprising and so heartbreaking that it’s hard for people fully to put into words in a way that seems to capture what’s going on.

But just like my child is everything that I grew up believing in, they think the opposite, and it affects what they think of me.

And I’m trying to keep it from affecting what I think of them.

And that’s so heartbreaking to me.


I mean, why wouldn’t we have these generational divides?

They’re part of just how things work.

There’s capitalism and socialism.

These are like these ripped-up families.

They weren’t just like little conversations.

And here’s this other one that becomes a generational moment.

I don’t know.

You did not have that with your parents.

I did not have that with my parents.

People who were born in 1950 had it with their parents over drugs and the war in Vietnam and the United States, and people in France had it too.

But I think for the most part, it’s unusual.

I’m not saying every family has it.

I think what’s hard is that if you look at the value systems that are held by those very good people’s kids, you will find that those kids are good people, or they certainly perceive themselves as good people.

And the parents see that too.

And the values that they are sort of using to power the conclusions they’ve reached are the values that their parents taught them.

There’s been a series on Malmo, which is the most anti-Semitic city in Europe, and it will be the site of the Eurovision.

So I’ve been watching that.

They’re talking about this horrible anti-Semitic immigrants.

They left out the fact that these people are watching their families be killed in Gaza.

They left out the fact that what we don’t see, they see on Al Jazeera, which is horrific destruction and death.

And young people are seeing that.

The fact that I think they’re reaching the absolute wrong conclusion for various reasons, because partly because the binary thinking that’s taken over, I think, in some ways, in such horrific ways in the campus world and the virtue signaling.

But I always want to go back to that.

They are good people.

But part of the nature of this particular kind of tragedy is I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t see that.

I don’t think the parents don’t see.

I think among the children, I gather, some of them don’t see the virtue in their parents’ position.

But I haven’t come across the opposite.

People recognize that my child is in part the person that I hope to raise, and this is happening.

But it’s just the irreducible fact that that awful feeling you might get in the pit of your stomach when you read through social media is suddenly around your dinner table.

If you’re lucky, then your dinner table still has everyone that it does.

I found myself writing into one of the younger generation of my extended family a letter that says what you’d imagine of like, “I love you, and I care about that much more than I care about political views, certainly much more than I care about my political views, and I hope that we can continue to have the same relationship that we always did.”

But it was not obvious when I wrote that that we would.

I think maybe we will.

But there are people that are—it’s just, that’s a thing.

But of course, that’s just one thing.

And you talked about all the other things, the fear that people feel and the alienation that people feel.

And by the way, the alienation that progressive Jews feel, and the alienation that conservative Jews feel, and the alienation that Jews feel from other Jews.

The loss of a home, the loss of a political home, and also actual friends.

I think another huge touchstone here is the response of women’s and feminist organizations to the rapes.

I mean, this was a tool of war used in the most brutal way, and we’ve talked about it ad nauseum.

But it was this very—it remains a stark moment for people.

Like, if you cannot—and so where do you go?

And then what are you going to say?

I’m not a feminist anymore?

I mean, that’s crazy talk.

So, I think that’s—I mean, where we go from here is really going to be, I think, interesting, especially in the progressive spaces.

Whether a significant voice can come out and speak the language, the progressive language.

One of the things—I just will say, Khabib Redegor, my colleague, he’s been shredding the internet.

He’s everywhere.

I think he’s coming out with a book, and I think he’s actually mostly been amazing.

But he had one—I would recommend any opportunity, including the long interview he did with Barry Weiss.

Really interesting take.

But he did an interview on the Times of Israel podcast and talked about the—it’s sort of almost as like a reverse blessing that all this antisemitism on campus was going to be good for Zionism.

And it’s really the one thing I’ve just went, “No, no!”

Both because, you know, what a terrible—you know, think about—he’s like, okay, he’s looking for a what is it, a silver lining on a dark cloud, but also that’s not my Zionism, particularly.

I don’t know that Israel— You’re looking so slim ever since you got that cancer.

I mean, look, I think it’s a take on Zionism that actually is interesting to probe now, what is Zionism after October 7th.

But I always sort of resisted—I never exactly thought that Israel was safer for Jews than not.

I just thought Israel— Of course it wasn’t.

Well, but so many people believe that that’s true.

And also, if you came from a place— It was safe in a different way always.

It was safe in a different way.

It gave you agency.

It gave you the army and the way to protect yourself that if you were going to get killed, you were going to go down, you know, fighting and all of that.

But it wasn’t my Zionism.

But it is very, very widely held belief that that is the whole purpose of Israel and the main, you know, reason for Zionism.

And so the fact that people feel threatened, it can be taken that that might be perceived as, “Okay, well, you know, more customers for us,” I think is misguided.

And I don’t think it’s going to—I just don’t think it’s true.

Maybe there’s a bit of a bump in Aliyah.

I think we should, you know, look at that.

I’ve heard that there’s a little bit of a bump in people continuing to come and maybe slightly elevated numbers, but certainly from places like France, but not from the U.S. and/or not in significant terms from the U.S.

It’ll be really interesting to see if that happens.

But I just want to go back to that idea of a torn family or people feeling like, you know, really being out there for me.

Like, I feel that those people—and I’m always a little embarrassed by, you know, demonstrations where people dress up and throw blood on themselves and “It’s not my bag,” and I always kind of—I find it cringey.

I have not found it cringey.

I have found it very, very moving to see the people in New York who put themselves in gauges a few days ago to mark the six months and screamed and screamed and screamed, and I feel like they are my voice there, and I haven’t felt that before so much.

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