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Being “not very Jewish” won’t work for kids in a world slowly but surely backsliding to the Shoah Antebellum

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Immersed in online feeds, young Jewish people find themselves surrounded by peers that consider antisemitic tropes to be facts - and smearing Israel to be in vogue. (Screencap: TikTok via Twitter)

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Type “Moe Appel” “Israel” into the Google search bar, and you will instantly see a plethora of information related to who my zayde was. Authors wrote books about him and his instrumental role in forming Canada’s relationship with the State of Israel and the efforts of Israel to win its independence in the first place. My bubbe and zayde travelled to Israel many times during their lives. My father became Bar Mitzvah in front of the Kotel in Jerusalem.

My grandparents on my mother’s side were the children of Polish Jewish immigrants and board members of their local synagogue. They regularly switched between Yiddish, Hebrew and English when speaking to me, so I was familiar with all three. My family made sure that I attended full-time Hebrew school until grade 9. My mother taught at a Yeshiva in Montreal for most of my childhood.

I was raised in the Jewish community and knew nothing different for the first 16 years of my life. Although they varied in observance from my Haredi friend Yossi to my friend Aaron who attended a Reform synagogue and wore his hair long, my friends were all Jewish. My mother kept a kosher kitchen, to the extent that all our food was Pareve. We never mixed meat with dairy – although we didn’t have separate dishes or utensils. And every Passover, we scoured the cupboards of chametz and found creative uses for matzo. I celebrate Chanukah instead of Christmas, and the big yearly family gathering was the Passover Seders instead of Thanksgiving. Every morning at school, we’d sing “Oh Canada”, immediately followed by Hatikvah.

That was my life, and I’m grateful for the foundation in Jewish culture and respect for the Jewish State with which my family brought me up. But growing up in an insular community also meant that I was a target that was impossible to miss. My school got vandalized with antisemitic graffiti on more than one occasion. With his tzitzit and payos on display, my friend Yossi would get bullied and had rocks thrown at him on more than one occasion. Discussions around the dinner table always involved Israel and Palestine.

When I became a parent myself, I decided not to raise her in the same insular way my family raised me. Her mother – my now-ex-wife – is not Jewish, and while she did begin the process of conversion at one point, she decided it wasn’t for her and I supported her choice. We raised our daughter according to both our cultures and allowed her to decide what she wanted to do.

As my daughter grew and had access to the world, she also had access to a world that is quite good at portraying the Jewish community in a less-than-attractive light. And a world skilled at making Israel out to be the source of all of the world’s evils. It was, therefore, not surprising that she chose not to identify with her Jewish roots and concern herself with Israel. None of her friends are Jewish, her girlfriend is not Jewish, and nobody my daughter goes to school with is Jewish, so it became a badge of shame for her.

In a sense, this was a relief to me, as I knew that by avoiding exposing herself as Jewish in the way that my peers and I were exposed, she would at least avoid much of the pain and discrimination that we encountered. Especially with a world that was slowly but surely backsliding to the Shoah Antebellum, where the world treated Jews as a target for increasing levels of violence. Despite her best efforts, however, the world refused to allow her to forget who she was.

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Antisemitic harassment and bullying have skyrocketed at schools, from primary to university, over the past few years. Jewish students are regularly mocked for their backgrounds, and denial and distortion of the Holocaust are at an all-time high, despite the ostensibly mandatory Holocaust education throughout Canada. This fact is all the more shocking given a recent study by the Azrieli Foundation, which found that a fifth of Canadians under 34 either have not heard of the Holocaust or were unsure of whether they had. A further one-in-four Canadians could not name a single Nazi concentration camp. Such circumstances create ripe conditions for Holocaust deniers to spread their venom among Canada’s young and impressionable citizens.

And thus, my daughter – like most children in her age group – find themselves surrounded by peers that consider antisemitic tropes to be facts and smearing Israel to be in vogue. To her credit, she refused to join the bandwagon of students spreading falsehoods. Still, she refused to defend a country toward which she genuinely felt no strong connection toward.

She also refused to involve herself in a second, equally trendy group of youth of Jewish background that proudly declares themselves to be anti-Israel. “I may be Jewish, but I hate Israel” as one “anti-Zionist Jew”; on Twitter wrote. Better, she told me, to stay out of all of it and not get involved in something about which she doesn’t care.

But the recent war between Israel and Hamas ignited a powder keg in the Diaspora that spread like wildfire in the modern age of Twitter, Facebook and TikTok. A distinct “Us vs Them” outpouring of antisemitism masking itself as pro-Palestinian rights saw mobs attacking Jews in cities across Canada and the United States. And TikTok, in particular, became full of anti-Israel, pro-Palestine videos. 

Two Wilfred Laurier students in Canada were suspended after posting a violent, hate-fueled TikTok pop music performance miming stabbing Jews and burning a flag of Israel. It received over 4000 views. (Screencap: TikTok)

My daughter, an admitted TikTok addict, was unable to avoid being bombarded by videos declaring “Free Palestine!” and “Israel are murdering children”. Finally, she had enough of it all, came to me and said, “Dad. What’s with all this ‘Free Palestine’ stuff?”

I then had to have The Talk with her that I had avoided, and she had been avoiding, for her entire life. The time had come for her to inherit her birthright. 

These days, the birthright of seemingly every Jew is to join the fight to justify her existence as a Jewish woman who isn’t willing to back down when made to feel ashamed for who she is.

I had a passionate discussion with her about Israel, the history of the conflict, the peace deals that Palestinian groups kept rejecting, and the debate around borders and settlements. Normally apathetic to world events and politics, her frequent use of social media meant that try as she might. It was now impossible for her to be on any online platform without choosing a side.

I’m proud of her for choosing Israel, as I did when I was her age, but again I’m saddened by the fact that it has become necessary. I felt frustrated that circumstances forced her into the daily battle to validate her existence and that of the Jewish homeland that I spent my whole childhood fighting. Like me and too many others like us, antisemites accuse her of supporting the murder of children, stealing land, and – unfortunately – committing that most modern of crimes: the crime of being Jewish and proud of it.

Moshe Appel has been involved in Jewish activism for most of his life, and regularly calls out antisemitism from all levels of government. Originally from Montreal, Moshe currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia and works in the healthcare field.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

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Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

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Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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