Thoughts of a Jewish Mother in 2021

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On January 6th, 2021, thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., for what I assumed would be a peaceful protest. Instead, many who consider themselves “Patriots” stormed the Capitol building, resulting in five deaths and an obscene amount of destruction to our Capitol building.

When photos and videos surfaced, I saw a man wearing a Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt and various flags and symbols known to have Nazi and antisemitic connections.

I spent the next two days in bed, trying to cope with what I was seeing.

This blog post took me two weeks to write. Partly because I couldn’t get out the right words but mostly because I’ve been afraid to share. If you’re reading this, it’s because I finally found the strength to hit publish.

I am a Jew. I am both proud and terrified for myself and my family.

I went to a private Hebrew school for ten years, but we were not what anyone would consider very religious. We attended a reform temple only on the high holidays and special occasions.

I became a Bat Mitzvah at age 13 and still remember most of my haftorah 30 years later. We never kept kosher. We also didn’t celebrate Shabbat every week, but I always appreciated and respected my Jewish heritage, which started way before the Holocaust and WWII.

During WWII, my Great-Grandma (my Papa’s mother) was placed in a ditch and shot in the head in a concentration camp because she was a Jew.

When I was a young child, Papa started coaching me on what I needed to say if Nazis came after us.

He was doing what he felt necessary to prepare me. Imagine loving your grandchild so profoundly that you thought it your duty to prepare her for the evil in the world when she was in kindergarten.

My Aunt and Uncle, both Holocaust survivors, were starved, beaten, and had their spouses and children ripped from their arms and killed because they were Jewish.

My Aunt and Uncle survived the Holocaust, though they left in poor health and numbers permanently tattooed on their arms. Instead of dedicating their lives to revenge or hatred for what had been done to them and their families, they decided the best revenge against those who hated Jews was to live long, meaningful lives.

My Aunt and Uncle often spoke about their years as restaurant and bakery owners in the 1960s. They offered employment opportunities to those who were not given an equal chance, even if that meant creating a position.

It was essential for them to treat people with kindness, regardless of their race, religion, or nationality. And when I brought home my Salvadoran boyfriend, they welcomed him with open arms and plates full of Hungarian food. It’s just one of the many things I loved and respected about them.

I’ve always known that Jews and people of color spend their lives dealing with unnecessary hate through racism and antisemitism. It wasn’t until recently that I realized that while both are wrong, the experience is very different.

I can walk down the street without anyone knowing that I’m Jewish. Religion is not visible. It’s something you believe in your heart. I may wear a Star of David, but I can take it off. People of color don’t have that luxury.

It made me realize that the terror I’ve felt since January 6th is nothing compared to the terror people of color must live with daily. It is the reason I stand up against racism now and will continue to for the rest of my life.

While I’ve always been mindful of what could be, I honestly never believed that we had to worry about Nazis in this day and age. Yet, here I am, seeing people in videos and photos, at the capitol building, wearing Nazi-inspired clothing and waving flags that prominently featured a swastika.

It’s easy for most people to brush that off, but for me, a Jewish woman, and the mother of three daughters, I can’t forget. These are symbols of the people that killed my family and 6 million others because they felt superior to them.

Those people still exist. And they are right here, in my country. Turns out, all of that preparing my Papa did was not for nothing. Yet, I’m glad that he’s not alive to see any of it.

When I finally got the courage to speak about my feelings on Instagram, people acted as though it didn’t matter because it was just a small percentage of the crowd. People scolded me for speaking about “politics” on my social media accounts.

Human rights are not political unless you make them political.

Still, over 1,200 people unfollowed me because I shared my family’s story and why the presence of Nazi symbols terrify me.

Think about that for a moment. People would rather unfollow me than take the time to understand why so many American Jews may be afraid to leave their homes right now.

The few that did want to put their two cents in didn’t care to understand why I feel the way I feel. After a couple of snarky remarks, they ended the conversation with, “we can agree to disagree.”

But no, we can’t agree to disagree. Not about antisemitism. Not about racism. Not about denying someone human rights.

You are either fighting against those things or turning your back on those that are affected by them. You can choose to educate yourself and empathize with others in different circumstances. Yet, so many are choosing to look away.

I wish people would be honest with themselves. Instead of making excuses for why you aren’t speaking up, admit that those things don’t matter to you because they don’t affect your life. That’s a privilege.

The term “white privilege” made me uncomfortable until I took the time to understand what it means. Instead of getting offended when people say it, Google it, look at it from another perspective and acknowledge it exists. Things can’t get better until we stop being selfish and start caring about others.

As much as I still want to hide, I know that I can’t stay silent. I was raised to be proud of my Jewish faith, not to cower in the corner.

People have the right to practice their religion and to be proud of their skin color.

I want to teach my children as much as I can about the Holocaust. There are people out there that deny it ever happened. So I want to arm them with knowledge and facts.

I want my kids to grow up knowing these evil people exist. I want to prepare them.

I want my kids to respect others, regardless of their race, religion, or nationality, by teaching them to acknowledge it. I want them to feel compassion for others who are different from them. I want them to learn why that difference is beautiful.

If my Aunt, Uncle, and Papa were alive today, they would not focus on the antisemitic people. They would focus on supporting the activists and would join those fighting for equality.

They would remind me that the only thing more powerful than the evil in this world is the kindness and compassion of others. That is the message this Jewish mother will pass on to her children.

What message will you pass on to your kids?

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This year has me reflecting on what it's like to be a Jewish Mother in the 21st century.  I never imagined I'd be this terrified, nearly eighty years after the Holocaust.
With everything going on in the world right now, it's most important for us to teach our children to be compassionate to all people, especially those that deal with racism and antisemitism.

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Hello There!

I'm so honored that you've found us! I'm Heather, a Mom of 3 who blogs about parenting, food, occasional travel and how I overcame my daily struggle with anxiety. I miss sleeping and rely on coffee and laughter to get me through the day. I hope you enjoy and visit often!

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  1. So much happened last year and I hope this year will be a lot better. It’s sad to read this and I hope that we all stand together and I salute you for this. Sharing your thought is really a bravery!

  2. I am hoping for a United and more peaceful 2021 for sure. Let’s hope for that and definitely not OK for anyone to have done those horrible things that led to the attack on the capital. Even the crazy riots of 2020… all summer long… needless and endless craziness…..all of it needs to stop and I will pray for peace. Thank you for the post 🙂

  3. “Human rights are not political unless you make them political.” THIS. So much this!! I’m here with you and for you! xo

  4. Many people unfollow me too, but you know never stop saying your mind and yes it is great that you shared your perspective!

  5. Thank you for this. I think that so many people can just turn their eyes away from everything going on or they may not take things seriously or want to educate themselves because of their own selfish reasons. They may feel like their way of thinking is right or that when someone shares some true information of the past and how it was wrong that they feel their beliefs being threatened when they don’t realize how much it has negatively impacted people that maybe different from them. It’s really unfortunate that people still have this way of thinking til this day. I will never understand it.

  6. This is powerful and thank you for sharing your perspective. It doesn’t matter that folks unfollowed you, what matters is that you spoke your truth. Love always wins and united we stand, regardless of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

  7. Yes there is lot hate in this world. we need to teach kids about kindness and the history so that they can understand it which will help them to make a wonderful human being.

  8. You’re absolutely right,we all need to respect others,regardless of the person race,religion,or nationality,I just which more people will learn to treat each with respect!

  9. There is so much hate in the world right now against so many different groups and it is so sad to see. We have made a lot of progress but there is still much to be made. People need to acknowledge their own wrong-doings before they can speak out against others as well. Thank you for sharing your story and raising awareness.

  10. I know that kindness always wins. And to be kind it makes feel us better. That’s why I am so soryy for those that hate.

  11. What a wonderful sharing here especially on your values and past. You are right about standing up and being proud of who you are and supporting the right organisations as well.

  12. It’s really sad to know that there are so many negative people in the world that’s why I taught my son to love one another regardless of color, gender or race. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us.

  13. It is truly terrifying to see just how radicalized his following has become. As an immigrant of color myself, it is heartbreaking, and I can only hope that our country move on from this awful period of hate and divisiveness.

  14. I like to think that I share what my daughter will need to know through her life to prepare her best for those who are not going to be as accepting but it can be hard. I try to teach her most of all to be accepting of differences between us all, which is very important as we all have the right to our own beliefs.

  15. Over the past few years, I’ve been shocked by the racist and antisemitic views I’ve been hearing from so many – I truly thought that we had made so much progress here in the US, but this hatred has been hiding just under the surface. Please continue to share your views and experiences. Like you said, “human rights are not political unless you make them political”.

  16. This gave me a very positive and good read. I felt the purity and a very loving mother. I always enjoy reading this kind of a very lovely post. I promise to be a good mother too like you someday!

  17. This was a powerful article. I think your right about preparing our kids for the harshness of this world.

  18. I appreciate you writing this post. I am hopeful that by teaching our children the world might start to become a better, more accepting place.

  19. Wow. This is such a lovely insight. It’s so important to pass on messages and educate your children. One message that I will definitely pass on to my son is to always be kind and respectful.

  20. Be always proud of who you are and most of all where you come from. Loved this post, send you a big hug x

  21. The event or attack of the Capitol building was… crazy, to say the least!

    I totally agree with you – when it comes to human rights we can never agree to disagree. And I know that it sometimes is scary, but you should always be proud of who you are and where you come from. I am proud of you for speaking up!
    With love and respect,
    Ann

  22. I am truly horrified by what has happened to our country and the ugly voices that have grown stronger and louder in the last 4 years. I think that 2020 opened up many people’s eyes to white privilege (but obviously, not enough!)

    My children are all adults now, but I can imagine how difficult it is to have these hard but important conversations with young kids.

    As a mom of a kid in the LGBTQ community, I know the fear that someone will harm my child for simply existing. I don’t understand how anyone can be so hateful towards another human being.

    The people who unfollowed you revealed so much about themselves. There is nothing acceptable about discrimination.

  23. thank you for sharing this post, the world is so hard right now. I bet its hard talking to kids about everything. truly admire you your a great mom , I will for sure pass down to my kids when i have some.

  24. Because of this story, I have the power to cut such evil acts by teaching our kids about kindness to others, respect to others, etc.,

  25. Thank you for being vulnerable and writing this.
    That was awful- I could not believe some of those images.
    It’s really hard and traumatic!
    It’s incredibly hard not to focus on the angry and violent contingent but we’re trying to focus on the good and the helpers. And what we can do to make sure that our home is an anti-racist place that encourages kindness and empathy. I’m biased as a teacher, but I believe that education is an important part of empathy and that empathy is key to making sure dehumanization doesn’t happen.

  26. I’ll continue to pass on the message that they are worthy, valued, and loved no matter how brown their skin is. That they should always respect God’s creations no matter what.

  27. It’s so important to teach kids about the past truthfully, no matter how hard it is so we don’t repeat it.

  28. I felt absolutely sick and disgusted to see the images at the Capitol during the riot. It is just repulsive and I can’t believe this kind of stuff is happening. Very scary and sad times.

  29. The message I have inside of me and am passing to my kids is of love and care. It is such a joy to see how my kids interact with other kids of different skin color, religions, immigrants, locals, anybody who lives in this country.
    However, my kids do know that evil like those seen on January 6 does live among us as well. And my kids, I am sure of that, act and will continue to make choices that are on the opposite spectrum of hate.
    What we saw just a few days ago was incitement and materialization of the utmost evil that a human being can create and act out, which is hate.
    Good riddance to the 1200 of those on your Insta.
    Welcome to anybody who makes their choice to care, and that means to love.

  30. That Wednesday was terrifying and sad. I hate for anyone to feel unsafe because of who they are, I don’t understand why people do such evil acts. Thank you for sharing your heart.

  31. Yes, we are to love everyone and respect what makes people different. All people regardless of color, race, religion, etc, need to be nice. While others are fine with the term white privileged, I am not. My son was the minority at his high school and a teacher called him a privileged white boy because he was smart. My son worked hard to get good grades.

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      I’m not sure in what context the teacher used that term, but I do encourage you to read what it means and why it’s very real.

  32. I can’t even imagine what you must be feeling. There are some disgusting people out there. I always teach my kids to love everyone. I have many Jewish friends, and I remind them that I’m here if they ever need to talk. I am so grateful they have given me insight on what they believe and their traditions.

  33. The level of hate in the world always astonishes me, even though I know it’s always been here, and unfortunately, probably always will be. It’s a shame that over 1,000 people decided that hard truths weren’t worthy of their time, but I can’t say I’m surprised.

  34. Social media really is a cesspool of human filth. I learned that over the past year especially. All of this hate, or even worse on some levels, indifference has always been here. We’re just able to see it more clearly with such a connected world.

  35. I completely agree. Agreeing to disagree on politics is one thing. Agreeing to disagree on basic human decency, however, is a non-starter.