A Trip to the Rodeo

Lauren Salzman  I never thought I would be participating in an arena-wide prayer this summer, let alone at a rodeo in Utah. “And thank you Father, for your most precious gift to us, your son, Jesus Christ,” the rodeo announcer preached over the loudspeaker to a packed house of bowed heads. An ocean of “Amens” reverberated around the stadium, while my sister and I cringed in discomfort. We looked around to see if there were any other Rosenbergs or Goldsteins or Grossmans. We spotted none, at least none that were obvious to us. There have been times when I have been the only Jew in the room, but it never really mattered as much as it did at the rodeo, miles away from my overwhelmingly liberal city. At Latin, I have been fortunate enough to have Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur as days off of school, and only once has someone asked me, “Do you speak Jewish?” I have many Jewish classmates and teachers, and those who aren’t, for the most part, seem genuinely interested in Jewish heritage and traditions. I wasn’t the only person in my grade to have a Bat Mitzvah, and if you go to Latin, you have definitely heard of the Bernard Zell Anshe Emet Day School. Matzah is served in the cafeteria during Passover and although some non-Jewish people steal a piece or two, at least they understand why it is there. If I expect people to take interest and learn about my religion, then why shouldn’t I embrace the opportunity to be immersed in a different culture, like that of the rodeo? Even though I should have known what I was walking into, I was caught by surprise when the prayer started. Each Christmas, I attend a friend’s Christmas party, and if given the opportunity, I would value being able to attend a service in a mosque, conservative temple, church, etc. The distinction is that in one case you are actively trying to learn about about a faith, and in the other, the faith seems to jump out and startle you. I can thankfully say that this Utah rodeo was one of the first times I felt out of place due to my religion. Additionally, this type of feeling-like-you-don’t-belong is nowhere near what my parents and especially my grandparents had to go through, but that’s a whole other article entirely. Latin, however has never made me feel marginalized. Now, I realize that perhaps some people at Latin feel marginalized every time they step foot on campus. There are so many things that are not comfortable for marginalized students that I do not see, and feeling called out myself only gave me a small glimpse of what each day must be like for some at Latin. I don’t think that you need to personally feel ostracized to understand the struggle of others, but it helped me put into perspective how lucky I am to feel so comfortable at school each day. At almost every Forum editorial board meeting, the topic of writing “The Jewish” article has always come up. At first Danielle Martin was going to write it, then I said I would take a crack at it, then Iz Gius took it on for a while, but nothing was ever written. We didn’t really have an idea of what the article was going to be, but it had something to do with how people of the Jewish faith feel very protected at Latin. Unfortunately, that luxury is not granted everywhere.    This summer, three Jewish lesbians participated in the Dyke March, an offshoot of the Pride Parade. They were persecuted and forced to leave the parade because they held a Jewish pride flag. Why? Simply because their pride flag was adorned with a Jewish star. Organizers of the Dyke March said that they did not want anything “that [could] inadvertently or advertently express Zionism,” according to an article written by Bari Weiss of the New York Times. The Jewish star is now worn by members of the Israeli army, but the symbol was widely used even before Israel’s founding. Intersectionality is at the forefront of most recent liberal activism. Put simply, it is the idea that every type of social oppression is linked to every other type of social oppression. That is, gay rights are linked to civil rights which are linked to women’s rights, which should in some way be linked to the rights of all oppressed people, including the Jewish people. Yet it seems that at the Dyke March, there was a hierarchy of social oppression. A march that claimed to be intersectional fell immensely short of its promise. The officials at the Dyke March released a statement which included, “The Chicago Dyke March Collective supports the liberation of Palestine and all oppressed people everywhere.” The women carrying the Jewish pride flag had “repeatedly expressed support for Zionism during conversations with Chicago Dyke March Collective members.” One of the women works for A Wider Bridge, an organization that fights for LGBTQ rights in Israel and the legitimization of Israel. Nowhere on their website could I find their views on what land Israel rightfully deserves. The Dyke March posted on their Facebook page that, “this story is taking on a familiar pattern, where A Wider Bridge’s distorted version is making headlines and setting in place a false narrative,” claiming that, “This is not the first time A Wider Bridge has made false accusations of anti-Semitism against Chicago activists expressing solidarity with Palestinians.” Zionism, the idea Theodor Herzl coined in 1897, is nothing like the misconstrued idea of Zionism today. He wanted a place for the Jewish people to be free of persecution, and even suggested spots in Latin America and East Africa if Palestine was not achievable. “Zionism is not about holding the West Bank and Arab East Jerusalem even if Netanyahu and the Israel lobby here want it to be,” a Huffington Post author writes in his/her article. “It is about Jews having sovereignty in a parcel of land where they can live in security and to which they can welcome future Jewish refugees.” Occupation was never synonymous with Zionism in Herzl’s mind. Some zionists believe in a two-state solution. Anti-zionism is a multifaceted idea: There are anti-zionists and zionists, non Jews and Jews, who believe Israel does not have the right to settle in the West Bank. There are people who think that Israel does not belong in the Middle East entirely. You will find anti-zionists who are anti-Israel but pro-Jewish, while some are anti-Israel because they are anti-semitic at heart. There are even white-nationalists who support Israel in order to rid the United States of Jews. So when someone says they are an anti-zionist, that could mean a multitude of things. One of the most prominent places anti-semitism can be spotted is on our college campuses. According to the AMCHA Initiative, an organization that tries to combat anti-semitism on college campuses, the number of incidents involving “the suppression of Jewish students’ freedom of speech and assembly” doubled from 2015 to 2016. Kenneth Marcus, the former head of the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights noted, “the rise of the ‘alt-right’ white nationalist movement is partially to blame – but so are extremists on the far left.” Universities are more actively pursuing right-wing neo-Nazi propaganda that is blatantly anti-semitic. The trouble occurs when anti-semitism disguises itself as anti-Israel, which although may not be my opinion, is a completely valid one. Anti-semitism brews in the far-left, just as it does in the far-right. Meanwhile, back at the ranch, a young couple with their son, no older than 4-years-old was sitting behind us. It was clear that “this wasn’t their first time at the rodeo.” They seemed to know the ins and outs of each event and every time I turned around, the boy and his flaming red hair were grinning. I felt so out of place, longing for the supportive halls of Latin, while this four year old felt so at home. I can only hope that as he grows up, he is never the person doing the marginalizing, and that whatever his opinions may be, he is respecting others for theirs.]]>