Diary

If You Really Want to Understand the New Jersey Shooting, Wear a Kippah for a Day

Two solid citizens associated with the Black Israelite Movement shot up a Jewish market in Jersey City last Tuesday, with six dead, all told.

Two of the victims were Jewish. Authorities called it a hate crime targeting the Jewish community, with the mayor suggesting the intended target was a Jewish school nearby. It’s hard to write that without vomiting.

A gut-wrenching op-ed in Forward by Eli Steinberg makes the following observation:

It feels like we [the Jewish community] will be the only people who will remember [the New Jersey shooting] … This morning, a cursory look at the front pages of America’s leading newspapers yielded little to alert you that Jews were killed in broad daylight yesterday, for no other crime than for being visibly Jewish. For many of us, whom I now call “visibly Orthodox Jews,” this comes as no surprise. In recent years, we have been subjected to this sort of treatment more and more.

First of all: thanks New York Times! The Paper of Wreckord ignored the slaughter of Jews in Europe during WWII, and it’s good to hear they are keeping it unreal. Stay indifferent to any counter-narrative, yo.

RedState columnist Brandon Morse observed that the MSM probably would have covered the New Jersey shooting like a second 9/11 had the shooters been white people wearing MAGA hats–an entire above-the-fold, front-page extravaganza.

Not only that, Al Sharpton and Alyssa Milano would have promoted and fronted a “March Against MAGA, Injustice, and Hate” in Washington DC this weekend, complete with tens of thousands of people and harangues from Ilhan Omar, David Hogg, Rob Reiner, and Cher.

Somebody who got into Congress in the last five minutes would have introduced a bill banning red hats with white text on them, lest anybody even THINK it says “Make America Great Again” and fall into apoplexy and coma.

Steinberg says:

Anti-Semitism is seemingly only worth covering if it can be framed in political terms, with President Trump and white supremacy on one side and the Jews and everyone else on the other. The capacity for discussing anti-Semitism in any other way, using any other frame, simply doesn’t seem to exist. People may think we are having a national conversation about anti-Semitism, but we really aren’t. What we keep on talking about is politics. If we can’t fit every story into the preconceived narrative we’ve built in that arena, we just ignore it and search for a story that we can.

Steinberg understands what’s happening. I would humbly suggest that most of us still don’t really understand Steinberg and his fellow “visible” Jews, Orthodox and otherwise. Even though we read and recoil in horror, most of us have no idea what it is like to dress in observance of our religion, so that we present a target our entire lives.

Well, maybe the kid who was serially harassed and assaulted for wearing a “Trump 2020” hat gets it a little. He and quite a few young Jewish boys could swap war stories. But the conversation would only go so far: the Trump kid’s ancestors haven’t been assaulted and murdered for the last 1000 years displaying their political proclivities on baseball caps.

There’s an old saying about walking a mile in another man’s shoes.

If you want to know a bit of what Steinberg and company experience, wear a kippah for a day. Do it in a place where nobody knows you, and see what happens. You probably won’t get assaulted or shot (unless you happen to live in Iran or New York); but you will find yourself being treated MUCH differently than you’re used to.

I performed the kippah experiment, following the lead of various journalists in Europe:

Right away, when I interacted with people, I found their eyes left mine and continually drifted up to my kippah. They started out speaking to me, but like a magnet, they always wound up speaking to the top of my head. I felt like a woman with unusually large breasts: “Hey! My face is down here!”

I didn’t lie and tell people I am Jewish, but they assumed. Interlocutors became stiff and shifty. Nobody called me names like they did at the journalists in Europe; but man–some dirty stares and a lot of quizzical looks. I felt like a Martian stepping off the saucer. I came away with a newfound horror at the tyranny of homogeneity in modern American culture. I could almost hear people’s thoughts: “Why can’t you wear a hat with ‘Ganja Ninja’ printed on it, like a normal person?”

We proclaim to one another in shiny TV commercials that we love for people to BE DIFFERENT. We are lying. Holding to the same age-old tradition is the new “different,” and it drives people sidewalk-punching and kosher-market-shooting crazy. Steinberg is right: this isn’t about transient political fights; it’s about a culture that has become brittle to the snapping point.