I recall the first nightmare I had about the Nazis. In my dream, I looked out my living room window and watched a group of men approach my neighbor’s door. As the family walked solemnly out their house for the last time, I counted the number of doors between theirs and mine. It was four.
I jerked myself awake, instantly relieved to be in my own bed, under my pink Cabbage Patch Kid comforter, surrounded by my favorite stuffed animals.
This nightmare, like many, correlated with something that happened earlier that day. I had learned for the first time about the Holocaust. It was in my Sunday school class at the Haverford Area YMCA. We watched a black and white video of families being marched off a train and into a gas chamber. We saw their heads shaved before entering. We saw their babies thrown into the air for target practice. We learned these horrible things happened to these people, for no other reason than that, like us, they were Jewish.
It grew increasingly apparent as I got older that if I read anything about the Holocaust, I’d have a nightmare. Though I’m an avid reader, I generally avoid novels about the Holocaust or anti-Semitism. A friend recommended Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America.” I tossed it aside after reading the first scene about a Jewish family harassed for not wearing their armbands. I have made occasional exceptions for books like Kristin Hanna’s, “The Nightingale,” and always suffered through some night terror before I finish it.
But now the nightmares are being caused by something other than books. They’re being caused by the news.
Last night, I dreamt I was preparing my two sons to be taken away from me by the Nazis. I again jerked myself awake, instantly relieved to be in my own bed, with my husband soundly asleep next to me, 4,000 miles and 80-years away from 1930’s Berlin.
I retraced my day to think what prompted this dream. The culprit: reading about the violence in Charlottesville, Va, and seeing that anti-Semitism is still alive and well.
I’ve been fortunate to have only felt the sting of anti-Semitism a few times in my life. The drunk guy in college who saluted his right hand. The coworker who commended me for “Jewing it out” when I demanded a dry cleaner refund me for a lost dress. The minister who said he was sorry I was going to hell because I didn’t believe in Jesus.
None of these incidents were traumatic, but reading about a group of Americans praising Hitler stirs up feelings of terror that are buried deep inside.
Groups like these are there to terrorize Jews. While they’re not rounding us up in the middle of the night to ship us off to our death, we know many would like to, or at the very least, ship us out of the country.
That’s right: People we’ve never met despise us, think we’re dirty, think we’re trying to rip them off.
While the damage from anti-Semitism is chilling, it’s not something you can easily see. Jews aren’t profiled. Jews aren’t beaten. We know we’re relatively safe, but deep down, the fear of being rounded up will always haunt us.
The so-called Alt Right supports boycotts of our stores. They relish bomb threats against our preschools and synagogues. They chant things like “Jews will not replace us.” These groups are not equal to those fighting against them. It’s not even close. These groups are terrorists and need to be condemned in no uncertain terms.
Several months ago, our President said he was moved to respond to the violence in Syria because of images of children suffocating from a gas attack. I can only hope that the thought of Jewish children plagued by lifelong nightmares will have the same effect.