Let Our Love Be Louder!

love

Let our Love be Louder! (a Jewish reflection on Charlottesville)

By Allison Berkowitz, 

Every Friday I call my grandmother to wish her a good Shabbas. After the sun sets – for 24 hours – she won’t answer the phone, or turn on a light, or ride in a car. I’m not nearly as observant of a Jewish person as her, but I admire her adherence to the rituals and enjoy getting to take part in them, if only in some small way. However, today, I procrastinated making that call. My grandma is a Holocaust survivor, and my heart has broken a little more for her each day since Charlottesville. The fact that the dehumanizing hatred – which once drove her family out of their Warsaw home with only the clothes on their back – is still alive and well in her lifetime, is maddening. As a child in the south, where Judaism wasn’t as prevalent as New York City where my parents are from, I got made fun of for my big nose and “funny sounding”

The fact that the dehumanizing hatred – which once drove her family out of their Warsaw home with only the clothes on their back – is still alive and well in her lifetime, is maddening. As a child in the south, where Judaism wasn’t as prevalent as New York City where my parents are from, I got made fun of for my big nose and “funny sounding” last name. As an adult, I’ve had several Neo-Nazis physically threaten me. And of course, there are the racist grandmas of boyfriends past who whispered at dinner tables or outright called me racial slurs to my face. But my experiences don’t hold a candle to what my grandparents endured.

It wasn’t until I was about 12 that I learned – in a casual conversation – that my maternal grandpa had a sister I didn’t know about. The reason I’d never heard of her before is that she’d been shot point blank during the war after it was discovered she’d been concealing her Judaism under her golden locks and sky blue eyes.

My maternal grandparents didn’t arrive in the United States until after the war was over. On my father’s side though, my grandparents were already there. My grandmother worked in a defense plant and my grandfather chose to join the American military out of a sense of duty. His platoon even liberated a concentration camp. I can only imagine the fury he would be feeling if he were alive today to see this despicable resurgence he fought so hard to extinguish. It graces my heart to no end though, seeing so many people standing up to it, and saying, “NO! This will not be tolerated.” If you are among them, thank you, and please continue. If you are not, what’s keeping you?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Allison has been a human rights activist & community organizer since she was 17 years old. She is originally from Orlando, Florida where she focused her energy on health care reform. Ms. Berkowitz spent three years serving communities all over Alaska after obtaining her MSW. In 2016, she was accepted into the University of Maryland, Baltimore’s School of Social Work. Since relocating to Baltimore, she’s been enjoying discovering the many varied and vibrant communities of Maryland. Allison hopes to one day use the skills she’s gaining in the Ph.D. program to help create more people-centered legislation.

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