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Donald Trump Had Dinner With a Bunch of Antisemites, and I Feel Fine | Opinion

Newsweek 11/29/2022 Jason Fields
Security cameras hang across the street from the Park East Synagogue, March 3, 2017, in New York City. © Drew Angerer/Getty Images Security cameras hang across the street from the Park East Synagogue, March 3, 2017, in New York City.

Former President Donald Trump had dinner with antisemites and I'm having trouble getting worked up about it.

You know why?

Because I'm Jewish.

How does that work, you ask?

Well, first Trump is a really, really bad guy. He has repeatedly shown himself antisemitic by conviction or convenience, and we have learned nothing new from this particular meal. If you're saying that the former president is mainstreaming antisemitism for the first time, I have no idea where you've been since 2015.

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Second, antisemitism isn't new in this country—even though it's getting worse—and my family is always somewhat on edge, anyway. We came to this country with experience of pogroms in Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Estonia... We came to this country having survived the genocide of the Holocaust.

Our synagogue has security guards. The other synagogues around have security guards. Often the hired guards are accompanied by police officers, either on- or off-duty.

We have a kid that goes to a Jewish school. Guards there, too, long before they became standard in the age of school shootings. We're not worried about the threat from within so much as the threat from outside the community.

We're aware of who and what we are much of the time and I have yet to meet someone who is Jewish who can't give an exhaustive history of their family background and the antisemitism that played a huge role in the creation in their present. The past lives with us.

As we're taught about the Holocaust, the lesson is never that it can't happen here, but rather that it can. Sometimes, growing up, I felt it was simply a matter of time before "they" came for me and my family.

Many Jewish homes have a little case, ornate or not, attached to the front doorframe of their homes. The case is filled with a prayer, handwritten on parchment, and the more religious of us kiss the "mezuzah" when we walk in.

Mezuzot are typically bolted to the frame, but in my family, we've joked that we should use Velcro instead of nails or screws. That it should be "pogrom-ready," to be snatched off in case of either hiding or flight.

Ha-ha.

I grew up in New York City. When I was a kid, in the 1970s, nearly 20 percent of the city was Jewish, but it felt like more.

It seemed about as safe and far away from antisemitism as could be. There were Jewish delis, Jewish bakeries. Sometimes it felt like our public schools were Jewish schools because so many of us were Jewish in my neighborhood.

You would think that if people were to let down their guard, it would be under these circumstances. But that's not the way it was.

My grandmother, with her thick German/Yiddish accent thought America was the best place to be. It was the place that had taken her in when she was thrown out of Belgium with her 6-week-old daughter as World War II began.

But it was clear from her, and from her sister and the others who had made it from Europe, that America would be wonderful until it was not. Never for a second did they think—or want—to be anything but Jews, and they expected to be reminded of it. They knew neighbors who had turned on neighbors. They knew how a welcoming, cosmopolitan place could become something else.

Is it OK to grow up this way, on tenterhooks? Is it OK to live this way?

No, it is not.

But it does mean very little can surprise you.

So, when Trump has dinner with fascist Nick Fuentes and an antisemitic mentally ill moron, I refuse to get upset. Or should I say any more upset than I have been? Than I always am?

I'll continue to do what I've always done and be ready to yank that mezuzah right off the door.

Jason Fields is a deputy opinion editor at Newsweek.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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