I always felt slightly alienated

"I remember feeling frustrated around the fifth grade when my mom told me other parents of our community didn’t want to socialize with them because of my father’s 'anti-semitic' views on the Israel/Palestine conflict. Apparently, he was the buzz-kill at every dinner date, when he would push back against unconditional (and delusional) support for Israel and its government. Other than the fact my father remains the most mindful, gentle, and brilliant person I know, it became clear which side I was on when I approached him about the subject. In addition to encouraging me to do my own research (always) he then calmly presented me with concrete information regarding the conflict and propaganda surrounding it. Compared to the information my school, mom’s family, and Jewish community gave, his struck me as what I would now call critical thinking. And he’d broken it down not only factually, but in simple moral terms: bigger should not abuse smaller, and previous genocide does not justify current genocide. These terms taught me there’s a difference between simplifying something as a means of manipulation, and returning to basic truths of the human experience for clarity. I had begun seriously learning about the Holocaust in the 6th grade, though many kids knew earlier than that what the horrors entailed and how those horrors presumably supported a Jewish state at all costs. Anyone who challenged this was misinformed, Jew-hating, or simply didn’t understand the plight of the Jews. And I suppose it’s true that my father was not a 'real' Jew. He looks like Harrison Ford at six ft. tall, has an Anglo-Irish last name, and is significantly less anxious than my mother. His own mother had remarried and converted to Judaism when he was a child. He went to temple every weekend and was Bar-mitzvahed, but ultimately, his father was an ex-air force gentile from Tennessee. On the other hand, all of my mother’s grandma’s siblings were shot into graves. While my mother hardly practiced growing up, her family’s sense of solidarity with the Holocaust, Israel, and what they deem actual Judaism is fierce. When I finally went on a school trip to Israel with my eighth grade class, and stood on a rooftop in Jerusalem with tears in my eyes, one teacher cutely suggested I tell my dad what an effect Israel has had on me. In truth, I was extremely moved to be in Israel, and it did have to do with those members of my family that had survived the Holocaust. And it had to do with those who’d been killed. But not because they would be pleased to see I was in 'our' land, taken with total bloodshed, but because I was alive and free despite Hitler and Good Germans. My parents sent me to a Jewish Day School in San Francisco, for which I am thankful. We sang often about gardens, the hallways were filled with apple baskets, and there were the sorts of teachers who led kabbalistic menstrual trust circles for middle school girls. Throughout my life since, I've stayed spiritually connected to my faith. But there were aspects of my "Jewish" education that always felt like I had to be a silent imposter among like-minded, true Jews, who sang hatikva with allegedly more dedication than I. I always felt slightly alienated and false because most of my teachers, rabbis, friends, and parents of friends not only refused to talk about this conflict in any way close to resembling justice, but would become hostile if you were to counter them. They would actually bully down your counterpoints with aggressive, circular logic, generalizations about Arabs wanting all Jews to die, and loads of factoids that were really missing the point." -Sydney Bradley Camp Ramah, JCC, Brandeis Hillel Day School