Handling Jewish Trauma in the Trump Era

I WAS BORN IN Cleveland, Ohio in 1949, only a few years after the Holocaust. My grandmother had barely escaped from the Cossacks. Her family got her out of Russia, and she traveled alone as a 12-year-old to the US. My father changed his name from Brownstein to Brown in 1941, and only when I was 40 did I learn that a large part of his family had died in the death camps.

I knew intellectually and taught in my anti-oppression work that anti-Semitism was a centuries-old cyclical oppression, and could always resurface when a scapegoat was needed, even in places of relative safety for Jews.

But deep inside, I held an unshakable belief that I was safe in the US. It couldn’t happen here. Then Trump got elected. Suddenly the invisible loose noose that I had been teaching Jews about just tightened. Trump put out anti-Semitic campaign fliers. Trump chose an avowed anti-Semite to be his most trusted adviser in the White House. Was this how it began for my father’s relatives in Europe? I imagine that they never believed it could happen to them either. Suddenly I was awake most nights, terrified, struggling to find the reassurance necessary to fall asleep.

I have been counseling Jews since the election on similar fears. Here are a few principles I offer:

The present is informed by unhealed discouragement from the past.

 

The text above was just an excerpt. The web versions of our print articles are now hosted by Duke University Press, Tikkun’s publisher. Click here to read an HTML version of the article. Click here to read a PDF version of the full article.

Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:11

Cherie Brown is the executive director of the National Coalition Building Institute, an anti-oppression leadership training organization with headquarters in Washington, D.C. She has been a frequent writer for Tikkun magazine and has been active in U.S. Jewish Middle East peace organizations for over forty years.
 
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