Are You a Jew With Trembling Knees?

Alexandra Marcus


Mon Mar 04 2019

Do you shrink in fear in the face of the enemy? If so, then you’re just the kind of Jew Hillel international wants you to be.

When I was at Columbia, my co-president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) was given a call by the president of the Hillel pro-Israel student group, parroting the advice I later came to know as generic Hillel advice: lay low, they will only be stronger and more reactive if you fight back. “Don’t do anything for Israel Apartheid Week. We are lying low and you should too!” She dictated, as if her leadership of the only pro-Israel organization that had received the “official Jewish community stamp of approval,” and to be granted club status by the university made her the authority on the matter.

When Hillel realized that we were the only group that didn’t take their advice – on the contrary, we had erected a 12-ft tall blow-up Pinocchio to draw attention to the lies the Apartheid Week display was spreading – they were furious. They quickly distanced themselves publicly from us, and wrote several scathing articles condemning us. This was after one of their board members approached our Pinocchio urging us to take it down. “You’re only drawing more attention to them!!” she whined, a palpable fear in her eyes. This fear was the same almost inborn fear my also-Ashkenazi mother had. The same type of fear her great-great grandmother likely had when the Cossacks ransacked her house and killed her entire family while she hid in the cellar, nuzzling her newborn baby in her arms. If she cried, if she made herself known, that would be the end. A fear forever embedded in our DNA, our genetics, manifested by Hillel’s fear, and my mother’s fear – so primal it was natural and subconscious....

Are You a Jew With Trembling Knees?