Outside the Circle

Cindy Milstein

No Place for Antisemitism and Islamophobia

A couple decades ago, I lived in Berlin for about two years. I moved three times, coincidentally to sublets in each of the three formerly Jewish neighborhoods, emptied of Jews by National Socialism. In the first one, I often walked past the nearby plaza where in 1933, members of the Nazi German Student Union and their profs burned some 20,000 books, including by Jews like Freud and Marx.

There’s a memorial marking the spot, but I didn’t need to see it to know what happened there. The unquiet ghosts told me. I could hear them wailing over the ashes of words, which only a few years later, would be joined by the ashes of bodies.

For us Jews, words and lives are equally sacred. When our Torah scrolls reach the end of their lives, for instance, they are buried among us in our cemeteries, and their memory too is a blessing.

A day before Holocaust Remembrance Day this past Thursday, a Tennessee school board banned and removed, along with other books, Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel “Maus,” about his Jewish parents’ time in a death camp and the mass murder of Jews by Nazis during the Holocaust.

History might not repeat itself carbon-copy-like, but it for sure sends us words of warning. Some words are sacred, honoring our dead and inspiring us to fight for the living; other words kill, like antisemitism and Islamophobia.

Tonight, I join Muslim friends in a commemoration (online) honoring their dead, murdered five years ago this evening while uttering sacred words of prayer in a Quebec City mosque. One person’s words resonate in particular, said with a weary emotion that I feel as a Jew: that we shouldn’t have to keep using our words after each fresh tragedy to tell you—non-Muslims and non-Jews—yet again that we are also human beings, and that we’d have everything if we had each other’s backs.

I know the lists are long of -isms and -phobias that spell out trauma, brutalization, and genocide for too many of us. Yet rarely are “antisemitism” and “Islamophobia” decried by those who are not Jews and Muslims, despite the many warning signs of fascism, reeking of the ashes of our dead.

#FascismKills #WeMustOutliveThem

(photo: sticker seen in Tio’tia:ke/Montreal, Oct 2021)


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This entry was posted on January 29, 2022 by in Uncategorized.
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