We Remember

Like an exclamation point to his entire campaign, Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon – a man who, at the very least, has perpetuated anti-Semitism – to be his chief strategist.  A message that so many Jewish children in the United States grew up with now rings truer than ever. That message? Don’t get too comfortable.

It is something our parents tell us again and again – you are accepted now, but you never know what tomorrow holds. We are raised on stories of neighbors who turned against our grandparents, of friends who looked away, and a government that did the unthinkable. For Jewish people who can pass as ‘white,’ these stories make us hyper-aware that whiteness granted can be revoked at any time, and that control of that decision always belongs to someone else.

We have spent the last year watching the most blatantly bigoted, racist, xenophobic, sexist, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic presidential campaign in decades. In the wake of that campaign, Donald Trump’s election feels like a personal threat made against our communities. It rings out as a reminder – you are only safe, so long as those with power allow it to be so.

Most Jewish Americans – around 71% – voted against Donald Trump. Yet too few national Jewish institutions have repudiated Trump’s tactics, or his refusal to denounce the bigotry perpetrated in his name. Too many Jewish people and institutions enabled Trump’s rise by treating him like a ordinary candidate. Now, we are left wondering, as the Jewish sage Rabbi Hillel did, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”

Rabbi Hillel’s quote continues, “But if I am only for myself, who am I?” As Jewish students on this campus, we write to denounce the bigoted rhetoric of Trump’s campaign against women, people of color, Muslims, and other minorities. We also dedicate ourselves to holding Jewish institutions accountable, if they appear to forgive Donald Trump’s enabling of anti-Semitism in return for, or on the basis of, his support of the policies of the right-wing Israeli government . We will never trade the safety of other communities – Muslim, Arab, Palestinian, or others – in a misguided and futile attempt to advance our own. We flatly reject the idea that our freedom can ever come at the expense of another.

As the KKK in the United States, and white supremacists around the globe, celebrate Donald Trump’s victory, we, as a group of progressive Jewish law students, are coming together to stand unequivocally with all those who will be, and who already have been, made vulnerable by his election. We write to say – we are with you.

Today, the Jewish community remains safer than many other communities. We will not be the friends or neighbors who look away. In the coming years, we commit ourselves to protecting all those whose rights are threatened by the new administration. This includes Jewish people, and especially the most vulnerable in our own community – women, Jews of color, Mizrahi Jews, queer, disabled, and economically marginalized Jews.

To all of our partners in this fight, and especially to our Muslim cousins – we see you, we care for you, and we will work to protect you.

Leora Smith, Jake Meiseles, Roi Bachmutsky, Hannah Belitz, Rebecca Harris, Grace Wallack, Jacob Glick, Lauren Kuhlik, Lauren Godles, Brian Pilchik, Daniel Levine-Spound, Edward Delman, and Annie Kurtz are members of The Progressive Jewish Alliance at Harvard Law School, a new student group.

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