I won’t be bullied into hiding my Magen David

My mother told me to remove any obvious Jewish symbols, “just in case” my Jewish identity counted against me, says Sabrina Miller

July 08, 2021 11:27

Last week, British Jews were rattled by two shocking antisemitic incidents, both aimed at Yochai, a visibly Jewish researcher from north London (see page 9). The viral clips show Yochai being accosted by a man who threatened to “slit his throat for Palestine’’, on a London bus, and then later harassed by a different man yelling “I f***ing hate the Jews” on the tube. Chilling.

Though antisemitic incidents are on the rise, CST’s figures show that the majority take place on social media. Secular Ashkenazim are often not identifiably Jewish and are able to ‘blend in’ when out and about, keeping them safer from antisemitic attack or harassment.

When I walk London’s streets, my Jewish heritage is disguised. My Jewish identity is not written on my skin. I am a white Brit and almost never fear the racist abuse I have grown accustomed to online, where my Jewish identity is just a Google search away.

This came to the fore during the latest escalation between Israel and Hamas. Many of my friends consciously stopped wearing Jewish symbols in order to hide their identity: baseball caps instead of kippot, Magen David necklaces tucked under shirts, t-shirts with Hebrew lettering left at home. They were scared they might be confronted if strangers were able to recognise that they were Jewish.

And their concern extended to my safety. Before going out for a drink or walking around university campus (a hotspot for antisemitism), Jewish friends would concernedly ask if we would be safer if I took off my Magen David necklace. Before job interviews, my mother told me to remove any obvious Jewish symbols, “just in case” my Jewish identity counted against me. People pleaded with me to just consider hiding my dirty Jewish secret and remove any physical manifestations of my identity.

Their concern was legitimate. Last weekend we were reminded that antisemites have no problem confronting visibly Jewish men and women in public. Jewish schools and shuls have security for a reason.

In May this year alone, there were 351 antisemitic incidents. Anyone or anything visibly Jewish is at risk of attack, threat, violence or vandalism.

But I refuse to hide my identity and take off my necklace. Admittedly, it is fairly innocuous. If I was ever really scared or uncomfortable, I could at any moment tuck it under my shirt. However, I refuse to allow antisemites to govern my life or the way I dress.

Hiding my Jewish identity would be an admission of defeat. Changing my daily habits because I am scared would be an acknowledgement that London is not a safe place for Jews. And I simply do not believe this to be true. England is a beautiful, free, liberal democracy and I will express myself however I choose.

In fact, antisemites re-enforce my Jewish identity and make me want to express who I am more. I am louder and prouder on social media because of, not in spite of, the antisemitic abuse I receive on a regular basis online. I endeavour to apply those same principles in my day-to-day life.

For me, my Magen David is both a statement of solidarity with the Jews who have been targeted for being Jewish and did not have the ability to hide, and a declaration against bullying. I do not scare easily. It is antisemites who should and must change, not me or my behaviour. The Jewish community has done nothing wrong and deserves to live freely and without fear.

My necklace makes me feel close and connected to an essential part of my identity. Judaism does not necessarily govern my day-to-day life, but my necklace is, for me, a constant and beautiful reminder of my Judaism. I will never be forced to hide my identity whilst a British citizen.

I guess I’m just too stubborn to be told what to do by antisemites. My Star of David is too important to be taken off “just in case”. The Jewish community should not respond to bullying with submission. We should meet bullies with resistance.

July 08, 2021 11:27

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