The Silence is Deafening: What it feels like to be a Millenial/Cusp Gen Z American Jew
(Image courtesy of Photo illustration/Pew Research Center. Image is from https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/ )
I preface this piece by acknowledging that I do not pit one group's injustice against another. This piece does not diminish the injustice and pain felt by other minorities. I want to open your eyes to the way I and many others are feeling right now.
American Jews born in the 1990s grew up in a quiet time. We were born after the fall of the Soviet Union, the dawn of the internet was approaching, and lack of overt anti-Semitism. The first time I heard anything anti-Semitic was my freshman year of college. My World Religions Teachers harshly critiqued Judaism while using the King James Bible (A Christian Protestant Bible as a source of her information). I, fortunately, did not encounter any other anti-semitism until graduate school. This form of anti-semitism was not blatant. Subtle Anti-Semtisim disguised itself in the guise of "wokeness."
(Image courtesy of Shutter Shock)
According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a woke person is well-informed on current events and social justice issues. Today it is easier than ever to be woke. In the palm of our hands, people have access to countless books, articles, and videos. The adage of go read a book evolved to google it. A person just has to type in a word or phrase to become better educated. During the 2020 George Floyd Protests, I read novels (I highly recommend Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison) and watched documentaries to learn more about what it means to be African American in the United States. Access to knowledge allows people to gain empathy and understanding for other struggles. There is a flip side to this coin. This access to knowledge leads to misinformation. Misinformation is the ammunition that fires hatred and bigotry into our lives. I believe a vice of my generation is its over-reliance on one news source. Across the political spectrum, news anchors become oracles on which people base their entire belief systems. There is no questioning the motivations and intentions of a decision. There is blind faith in the person telling you the news. The result is that anything coming out of any news source becomes scientific law. If Fox, CNN, or ABC, says that the Earth is now square, people will begin to believe in the misinformation.
During my first semester of graduate school, my professors told students that a Millennial and Generation Z 's average attention span is a resounding eight seconds. This lack of attention can be attributed to multiple factors ranging from social media addiction to the need for instant gratification (Tsuruta, 2020). We should not let this fact diminish our abilities to think critically. When editing this piece, I asked multiple mentors and friends for their opinions. My former boss and current Executive Director of Stetson Hillel, Samuel Friedman, encapsulates the essence of the piece when he said the following ,
" We live in a time where people have more information available to them but are unable to look past headlines to the nuance of situations."
(Photo of Sam Friedman)
In Los Angeles, there was an anti-Semitic hate crime at a sushi restaurant. In Baltimore, a man was murdered for being Jewish. In Milan, there was a Neo-Nazi gathering. I can go on and on about the escalation of anti-semitism in the media. I see many of my Jewish friends post these news stories. When talking with my non-Jewish friends, they have no idea what is going on. The only thing they see is the geopolitical situation in the Gaza Strip. If we trust the media to inform us to check the power of government and economic institutions, why are they not telling us the full story? Media outlets are using photos to discuss the plight of children with pictures from the Syrian Civil War. Media outlets are underreporting the daily dangers faced by Jews around the world. If we were to trust one media outlet with our lives, why would you trust it to an outlet that does not fact-check its photos?
(Image courtesy of Shutter Shock)
I do not know what the future holds. I want peace. I want Israelis and Palestinians to find a solution that satisfies both parties. As much as I want things, that not the reality. The reality is Gaza Strip conflict is the catalyst for anti-semitic behavior. It's an excuse for "woke" people to preach their truth. My one request is to fact-check your oracle to make sure that you are woke instead of misinformed.
(Image Courtesy of the British Museum. Image depicts Orestes Apollo at Delphi on a Greek-Vase painting)