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Kol Ha Bayit: Responding personally to anti-semitism

06/18/2019 12:26:50 PM


Olivia Dolgin, with Margaret Rice

Encountering Anti-Semitism is something many Jewish people are familiar with and it cannot be ignored. Speaking up when someone presents you or others with false information, or baseless attacks on your faith or Israel, should be something everyone can find the courage to do and knowing how to refute claims and draw strength from your faith is a necessary tool in any disagreement or personal attack one faces. New member Olivia Dolgin had just such an encounter recently in her community and is glad to share some of this story to encourage our members to speak up for themselves and others.


Question: How did Anti-Semitism come up in your recent encounter? Was it outright, or more subtle?


I’m in a Foreign Affairs discussion group in my community, which meets in a non-partisan attempt to look at various topics through the year, led by someone who retired from State Department and spent considerable time posted to Muslim countries. While there is the appearance of even-handedness on most topics, this time the topic was “The Middle East” and it was clearly biased.


The Moderator started up with bemoaning the plight of Palestinians, who he stated three generations later are still living as refugees in other countries, notably Jordan and other countries like Australia. I broke in and asked him if my husband, who came to America 40 years ago as a Soviet refugee and is [now] a U.S. Citizen, is still a refugee?


“Of course not!” he exclaimed.


So I told him to stop calling Palestinians with other citizenship refugees, and objected to counting them as such. He appeared to back down. Others in the group jumped in at that point to voice support for Israel. Log jam broken or so I thought.


Later, the Moderator sent out a broadcast email containing an article decrying Netanyahu’s election and the moral failure of the Jewish State. It was filled with old tropes. The Moderator sent it late at night, indicating he wanted the last word. It was nothing short of Anti-Semitism masquerading as a scholarly article with no author and no attribution. It had been scrubbed.


Q: How did you feel about the attack, and what made you decide to engage the perpetrator?


Cold Fury.


I have had enough bigotry in my life. To encounter this again after the group meeting was too much. We have been so happy to find a community where people are outspoken supporters of Israel. Many are deeply religious Christians and many have dealt with anti-terrorism issues, firm supporters.


Q: Were you scared about their reaction to your refutation? How did you prepare to engage with them in a way that you felt confident in your counter-argument?


I’m long past caring about what a bigot thinks. [I’m] too old and not interested in the sensibilities of an Anti-Semite. Still, it was gratifying that when I spoke up at the meeting, several members supported me.


I wrote a reply email calling out the bigotry and challenged the statements by posting links with excerpts to support my point. I did not directly name or call out the Moderator but used “the author” as my focal point. I hit “Reply All” to 29 names.


Q: What was the reaction of others when they saw you engage this person and stand up for yourself and your faith? How did it make you feel?


It was stunning to me, when the next afternoon, I went into the Country Club in our community and two tables of people called me over to congratulate me and expressed indignation at the article. They were Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish, and made a point to tell me. Some others walked in, saw the gathering, and joined; [they] said they heard [about the situation] and liked how I always provide facts and figures in discussions. So I guess they actually listen.


I received a reply email, that also circulated to all 29 names on the list, adding to my voice.


Later that evening, I got an email from the Moderator backpedaling, saying he only posted it for interest...yeah right.


Q: What is one piece of advice you can give to anyone facing a similar situation?


Elie Weisel said, “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”


I’ll go with that.

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyar 5784