Coming out of the theatre in tears

Last night I went to see Fiddler on the Roof, and what I’d like to try and tell you here is how it felt for me. For me, because I’m Jewish and this is the story of my people.

I mentioned this briefly on social media last night and have been getting comments from non-Jews saying stuff like “me too”, and I’m glad you guys are moved by my people’s story but I need you to understand that for me it’s a totally different experience, and no matter how sympathetic or empathetic or whatever you are, you are not in my shoes.

For me watching this show – I’m watching the story of people who could be my own grandparents or their cousins, and the way they were treated just because of the terrible crime of being born Jewish. I’m watching the story of how my own people kept being turfed out from one place and then another and another, the wandering Jew being “tolerated” as though we’re some kind of subhuman species, and when toleration stops we pick up our stuff and wander on to another place where we might be tolerated for a while…

For non-Jews watching this, it can be moving and it should be moving and if it helps you understand something of the Jewish experience then I’m glad, because I want people to understand it better. I tweeted last night to thank the theatre and the actors for telling my people’s story – because there’s tons of ignorance out there and many people need to be reminded of this part of not-so-distant history, so that they can understand why we felt the need for a state of our own, a place that no one can turf us out of. (And even more acutely after someone tried to systematically kill all Jews in Europe – not content with the good old-fashioned custom of just turfing us out so we could go live somewhere else.)

And note that I said “the crime of being born Jewish” – anti-Semitism has never been about our religion or behaviour or customs or how we dress or anything like that, it’s simply a hatred of Jews as a people. In Germany in the 1930s many Jews had assimilated into the surrounding culture, turning away from Tevye’s beloved traditions and doing all they could to blend in, but for Hitler you counted as Jewish if you had a Jewish grandmother, no matter how non-Jewish your lifestyle was.

I don’t often talk about this stuff on social media – partly because I can’t stomach the hate that inevitably comes at you as soon as you dare to speak about it and suggest that the desire of Jews to live in their own land is actually ok. But last night I saw Fiddler on the Roof and came out of the theatre in tears, and the next day I’m still emotionally raw from the whole thing, and I needed to verbalise some of it. If anyone wants to come at me with hate, so be it. I don’t really care. I hang out on social media daily, I see the hate, I know it’s there. Just like Tevye lived with the knowledge that there were people who hate us, so does every Jew who doesn’t bury his head in the sand – we exist, and there are people who hate us, and that, the way I see it, is the way things will always be until Messiah returns.

Maranatha. Come, Lord Jesus. And in the meantime, please continue to watch over us and protect us from those who aim to destroy us. He who keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps. Thank you, Lord. Without you we would have been destroyed long ago.

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