The Psyche of the Soul: The Connection between Intolerance and The Beginning

By Isabel Simon, Emma Willard School

About 2,000 years ago a young man rose to the occasion to spread his ideas and values to the people around him. That man became known as the founder of Chirstianity and held the name Jesus Christ, or Jesus of Nazareth. There are two incredibly important facts about this man that are overlooked in many history classes and studies: Jesus has to have been a black or brown man and he was most definitely Jewish.

It is in this time of confusion and ambiguity we turn into ourselves to reflect. Over the past few months, as the BLM Movement trended and people’s shouts for black equity in America flooded the nation, other types of aggression and hate resurfaced including; anti-Asian sentiment, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism. As our world crumbled, following the deaths of Brianna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, our nation fought hard for the voices of these people who were inhumanely and racistly murdered in cold blood to be heard.

As time went on petitions were signed, many were incarcerated for their racist ways, and the statues spread around America representing racism and intolerable values were torn down and thrown away. Although the U.S is in no way where it should when it comes to the Black Lives Matter Movement, it is incredible to watch the voices of many come together to fight and make change.

However, it is always an uphill battle for any minority especially in a country where white conservative men are at the top of the social, political, and economic hierarchy. It was about this time, when many believed they were slowly chipping away at the racism our country was founded on, that a surge of Anti-Semetic attacks began.

An example being the fast-fashion clothing company Shein, famous for its chic style and fashionable trends, sold a necklace with a Swastika pendant attached. The company has since apologized and removed the item but, not before stating that the necklace was not exactly identical to a Swastika however they understood the consumer's concern. It was this statement that blew up in the company's face as people lashed out against them, ridiculing them for the obvious mistake they made and how ridiculous they were having retorted with such a statement.

This mishap was a shock to many, but especially the younger generation of Jewish women and girls. I fall under that category, and although, I am not as religious as I would like to be, I feel deeply connected to certain parts of my religion. There are things about the Jewish religion I do not support or agree with, but I have always enjoyed the more ethical and spiritual side the religion offers.

Although I overall embrace my Jewish heritage, I have gone through times where I questioned my safety because of it. A few years ago in my town someone was spray painting Swastikas in public areas. It was never clear whether it was a joke or someone actually meant it, but either way it was completely unacceptable. I had encountered very few anti-Semetic incidents in my life before that, even though many of my friends from home looked at me funny when I said I do not celebrate Christmas, but walking past those marks looming over my head, shining a soulless black off of the bench or fence, gave me chills.

It woke me up for I believed incidents like that only happened in and around large urban areas, such as the Squirrel Hill shooting in 2018, however I was terribly mistaken. I have no memory of anyone being caught or reprimanded for the anti-Semetic representation, but it changed the way I acted around my friends and in my town. I hesitated more often to say I was Jewish and at large gatherings or parties and I ignored the people who looked at me like I had three heads when I said my favorite holiday was Hannukah. It took me a while to regain the pride I feel now towards being Jewish, but I am still working at understanding the fact that being Jewish means thousands of different things and much of the religion is up to interpretation. Being Jewish does not mean I support the intolerance in the Middle East nor does it mean I keep kosher or wear a kepach. Being Jewish means that I have fun and listen to stories passed down generation after generation in my family, learn snippets of Hebrew when my Israeli cousins visit, and treasure the traditions and unique celebrations the religion has to offer.

Tying together the loose ends, I feel as if this time, during a pandemic, during a national uprise towards ending the systematic racism in America, and during a time of tension in all departments of our government as we eagerly await a new president, I found myself looking back on my history class this year.

We learned about systematic racism, anti-Semetism, and how governments built on greed and corruption can never succeed. One thing my teacher said that resonated with me, especially during this time, was that we should learn what to do and what not to do from this course. That as our generation grows up and becomes lawyers, doctors, congresswomen, political candidates and more, we should remember our sophomore history class in Emma Willard and note the things that worked and didn’t.

That is why history is so special: it is notes and reflections taken from every time imaginable to show the next generation what not to do. So, as I reflected on this, I tied together this time with the beginning. As many agree that the year 2020 seems like the end, it makes sense that it would be so ironic. The irony being that the man who created Christianity, which now dominates the world and infiltrates people’s minds causing them to believe they are superior and is tearing our nation apart, was black and was Jewish, two of the currently most attacked minorities in the United States.

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