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.
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Tikkun 2017 Volume 32, Number 3:11