On What Happened in Melbourne Yesterday

This is my new social media rant. I put it up on Facebook then I realised that some of you might want it here. I want less fear in all our lives. Now, please.

All night I thought about a missing element from yesterday’s discussion about what happened on St Kilda beach: how Sudanese Australians and Jewish Australians are handling the every day. Not just from now on, but have handled the every day for a long time. To be honest, I know some of the things Jewish Aussies do, for I do them myself for I am one. I do not share my address lightly. I do not wear jewellery that might cause someone to act violently and etc. There are certain events I do not go to any more, for that would cross a line. And etc. Much etc.

It’s like being a woman and walking home alone at night and doing many things to avoid rape. It’s a part of my life. I do some things because I’m Jewish and some because I’m female. I talk about needing lifts at night because I’m disabled, but these are the other reasons. I prefer to have no social life at all than to be at risk and to feel that risk every time I walk home alone.

Every single Australian Jew right now is having to make choices about how visible they are and what they need to do to walk safely in the streets of their home towns.

We’ve always done this, to be honest, but right now we’re doing it with a heightened awareness and with much worry. My great-uncle told me stories of what it was like for him, and he served in PNG and at Tobruk. Anyone who admits to being Jewish opens themselves to interesting life experiences. Some lucky ones miss out on those experiences. As you all know, I am not so much one of the lucky ones. That’s why I’m writing this.

Jewish Australians are accused of being passive on these things, just as women are told that we are passive on matters relating to harassment. It’s complicated, especially given the history of Jews in Australia. The Emmy Monash Home has a lot of elderly clients whose family and friends were all murdered for being Jewish. Not a thousand years ago. In their youth. They survived and found safety in Australia and the memories still hurt. I was taught not to ask adults about their childhood when I was a child, for one does not hurt people intentionally.

For the last few decades, many of them have chosen to share what has happened to them and to talk about it so that other people won’t get hurt. Holocaust Museums use their big-heartedness as guides and uses interviews of them in their displays to help explain the Shoah. The Makor Library in Melbourne has stories and memoirs written by these people. So many Shoah survivors have spent much of their lives working to prevent it happening again to anyone by helping us understand how it happened in World War II.

I know another thing that is being done by some Jewish Australians. There was a vote in Wentworth last year that didn’t go the way the Liberals expected. This is not the main reason why, but it certainly played a part.

Jewish Australians are doing so much to try to make the every day safe.

I will guarantee that the Sudanese Aussies currently being targeted are also doing all they can to walk safely in their home town. It’s harder, for they can’t ‘pass’ as easily as most Jews can. I know hidden Jews who only tell very select people about their actual background and I know Ultra-Orthodox who are clearly and publicly identifiable as Jewish by their dress and custom. Skin colour puts all the Sudanese Australians and anyone who might be mistaken for a Sudanese Aussie at the Ultra-Orthodox end, risk-wise. Safety is an everyday problem.

Yesterday, in all the tweets and in all the press, only one person said “We’re going to check on Emmy Monash people and make sure the Holocaust survivors who got swastikad are OK.” I was relieved there was one. A bunch of neo-Nazis choosing the Borscht Belt for their demonstration means that one is not enough.

Right now, we need a return of the #ridewithme. We need to make it clear that all Australians are entitled to safe everyday lives.

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