Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

The Power of Hate: Antisemitism, Racism, and Legal Discrimination

Did you know I am going to hell?

I am, there's no denying it. (Unless, of course, you question the existence of hell--but that's a whole other issue). I'm probably going to hell for numerous reasons, but I am destined for the land of fiery torture.

I know because the first time I was told this I was probably 11 or 12 years old. I was studying to become a Bat Mitzvah and I went to Hebrew School at least two or three times a week. But, two of my closest neighborhood friends (Born Again Christians) informed me that I was, indeed, going to hell because I didn't embrace Jesus as the Savior or as the son of G-d.  We didn't talk for a long time after that until our parents brought us back together.

I know because when I was getting married my future in-laws (Methodists) talked to their son (not in my presence) about their concern that he might convert to Judaism. They were worried that he would end up in hell if he converted. I appreciate their concern, but if that's where I'm going to end up wouldn't he want to end up there with me?

Of course, I would never ask him to convert, just as I would never really convert out of Judaism. I am not religious, but it is my culture. I'm not religious, but I have experienced people hating me and my family purely because of this perception of difference . . . this identity of blood that has nothing to do with my value as a person, but everything to do with other people's perceptions of themselves.

I woke this morning to discover numerous stories about a world that seems to  embrace hate and prejudice and all the things that make me believe hell is here on earth. First there is the legalization of discrimination in Indiana. I know this is aimed at LGBT and marriage equality, so perhaps it isn't fair to equate it to antisemitism or racism, but I can't help wonder how long it will be before there are signs posted everywhere that say things like:


Next I read the horribly unfunny Lena Dunham piece in  The New Yorker where she equated Jews to dogs. I can't express how disturbing this is better than Jordana Horn in Kveller, so please pop over and read her post. I'll wait . . .  Dunham wrote this in a time when, just recently, a Belgian cafe posted a sign in Turkish and French:
The Turkish text reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Jews are not under any circumstances.” The French text replaces “Jews” with “Zionists.”

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I am Jewish and I do believe in the importance of Israel's existence, but that does not mean I approve of everything Israel does. I'm actually very conflicted about how Israel treats Palestinians. I yearn for there to be a realization that everyone, regardless of race, religion, culture, sexual orientation, gender, hair color, whatever--everyone deserves a safe place to call home and live out their lives.

But I also understand the fear. I saw my brother's head bleeding from the rock thrown at him for being a Jew. I saw my mother's tears and horror when she was attacked on the doorstep of my home for being a Jew. I felt the pain in my knee when I was pushed off my tricycle for being a Jew. I understand the fear of living in a world surrounded by people who hate you.

I also understand the fear of difference. I saw the judgment in other people's eyes when I went out with my Asian husband, with dark skin and dark hair, after 9/11. I have seen people back away from my friends because they were two men holding hands or two women kissing. I realize that people are afraid of things they don't understand.

However, we need to open our eyes to the reality that my marriage and love is not threatened by people who love differently. My belief and faith (which are my own and not really following any specific religion) are not harmed by those who believe other things. My choices in life have no influence on the choices other people make--and they shouldn't.

Why are there so many people who can't understand that?

According to many people, I am indeed to going to hell. But, as long as we live in a world where people are so hateful to each other and protective of rights only for people who act/believe/and look a certain way, I'd argue that I already live there.


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