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I’m deeply ashamed of the shame I’ve had my entire life about being Jewish, and this conflict is messing me up even more.

I was born in a major North American city to two amazing immigrant parents, each from a different part of Eastern Europe- dad, Eastern Orthodox, mom Jewish. As if being singled out by my schoolfellows for being from a different national background than the vast majority of them wasn’t enough, the religion thing– especially Jewish– made me even more of an alien to them. I had no accent, looked like most of them (except for being “the fat kid”), dressed like most of them, and had all the same interests, consumed all the same media, as most of them. It was mostly my name, really, and the fact that when my mom would pick me up, they’d hear her accent or see us talking among ourselves in her/our language (Slovak).

In retrospect, now 25+ years on, I’m sick to my stomach over how I granted this (in retrospect) low-level bullying/singling out so much power as to tamper with what otherwise would’ve been my natural upbringing and sense of national + religious identity. I basically entirely dissociated from any national and religious activities my parents would’ve I’m sure liked me to take part in, sticking to just speaking their languages as means for better communications. I hate this so much… that I assigned a bunch of damn kids, none of whom I’m even in touch with anymore, so much power as to make me ashamed of who I am. I have many, many, regrets in the way I’ve lived my pitiful life, but this sits at the very top of the list.

To make things worse, growing up to a Serb dad in the 90’s was extra rough, as Serb’s were widely painted as being the bad guys in the Balkan War, so I was especially singled out for that, and downright even shamed by a teacher on one occasion. It would be many years, over a decade, before I grew out of being ashamed of either of my national backgrounds, and even got to a point where I’d say I was proud/boastful of them, keen to share the foods, traditions, etc. of each respective country with fiends and acquaintances. I, in time, became proud of my name and where those who gave me life came from. But what never did subside was my shame about being Jewish. Chock it up to me being a weak person with no backbone if you have to, but all the countless digs, jokes, and so on, that I heard against Jews growing up, and regularly do to this day (unlike the Balkan War of the 90’s, which many have moved on from), have kept me all clammed up and guarded about the fact that I’m a Jew. I’m a very introspective and open person, and am only now in my 30’s trying to better understand why I am the way that I am.

I will say that– and this is a brand new realization, or rather admission– things that happened in your childhood truly are the toughest to shake, even as you age and mature, and realize how trivial some of them may’ve been. I want to be proud of being a Jew… my family on my mothers side, who was central in contributing to my life experiences growing up, and only ever been the epitome of profound love, largely perished in the Holocaust, and several relatives moved to Israel… they (whoever is left of them- sadly, many died) are eternally proud of their heritage. I want to be, too. But now, with this current conflict (which I suppose is ongoing, in a way, just having reached a tipping point), I feel like I’ll go even deeper into hiding who/what I am… when I really don’t want to.

What’s always perplexed me is how the existence of Jews is so deeply perturbing to so many around the globe (not only to Muslims and/or Hamas, etc.), that they’d so much rather we entirely be eradicated- the small population of 16 million globally is such a thorn in everyones existence, they’d rather we just ceased to exist, really? Why, dammit? Why?! I, so badly, want to gain a deep, comprehensive, and unbiased-as-possible, an understanding of the current conflict, but also, more widely, of this age-old hatred of the Jews, which surely stems from something more than them being successful merchants in old times- come on.

Anyways, apologies for the long and convoluted post… I have a great deal of work left to do on myself, and so much to learn on what are some incredibly complicated topics… my biggest dilemma on that front being left wanting to find as unbiased a history as possible…

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