By Zachary W. Singerman
My bar mitzvah was a year and a half ago. I studied hard — it was a long Torah portion — and was rewarded with a party and a DJ.
That’s what it used to be like to be Jewish in America.
Six months after my bar mitzvah, the luxury ended with the attack on Tree of Life in Pittsburgh and the murder of 11 people.
Tree of Life was personal for me. My grandma’s congregation, Dor Hadash, met in the synagogue. Thankfully, on the day of the shooting, she wasn’t there. But on that day, her friend was murdered. Another shot. Other friends, who are also grandparents, ran for their lives from the synagogue.
Then, six months later ― Poway. In the last month, the number of anti-Semitic attacks has ncreased to a shocking level.
This is not the future my great-great grandparents had in mind when they left Europe and came to Washington. When I started thinking about what my role is as an American Jew, I thought the situation was not as dire as when my family left Europe. But, it is clearly getting worse.
Even though I go to Jewish day school, I am fairly assimilated. I am not worried when I walk down the street.
Until the last few weeks, I thought by attending Jewish day school, going to synagogue on Shabbat and keeping kosher, I was being proudly Jewish. The bar mitzvah was not the end of my Jewish identity.
However, when I take the Metro at Dupont Circle to school, no one knows that I am Jewish. I blend in with the fabric of the community. I only wear my kippah at school and in synagogue. Just the other night with family friends, the discussion was should we wear kippot in public? Is it safe? The real answer is that now I need to wear my kippah in public to make the statement that I am Jewish and I will not hide.
Being proudly Jewish means that I need to bring my generation together to get involved in the fight against anti-Semitism whether we go to day school or not.
I realize now that teens cannot sit on the sidelines in the fight against anti-Semitism. It is time to start talking about what it means to be Jewish in America. My generation needs to get involved now and even more importantly before we leave home for college where we will be confronted with anti-Semitism, from Nazi salutes to mock eviction notices on dorm room doors.
This is why I founded the Jewish DC Regional Teen Summit on anti-Semitism. It will be on Sunday, March 15, in Montgomery County with New York Times columnist and author of “How to Fight Anti-Semitism” Bari Weiss as speaker. Also, we will have video addresses from Senators Jacky Rosen and James Lankford, the founders of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism. Also, we will have break-out sessions where teens can talk together about issues. The goal is for Jewish teens to learn about anti-Semitism and how to stand up to it when confronted.
We have a head start. I have been taught about the history of the Jewish people — expulsion from countries across the world and the Holocaust. I am an American. I’m not going anywhere. My generation needs to get involved, so the sacrifices of generations past are not lost for the future generations of Jews in America.
Zachary W. Singerman is a ninth-grader at Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville.