I was raised in a multicultural Denver neighborhood, where as a child one could hear Spanish, Yiddish, and other languages just walking down the street — our own Tower of Babel. Many friends and neighbors from all backgrounds would enjoy Sabbath and holiday dinners in our family home. Our door was always open to everyone who needed a safe haven and a warm meal. The dining room table would miraculously grow to accommodate our guests.
Education was also very important in my family, especially since my parents did not have opportunities to attend college. I was sent to religious school on the weekends to study Jewish history and Hebrew.
But much to the dismay of my parents, I was expelled when I was 12 years old.
I was not allowed back because I told the rabbi that he was a chauvinist for not allowing me on the pulpit with my twin brother to study the Torah. As part of my punishment, I was not permitted to have a bat mitzvah which signifies that a young woman has attained adulthood under Jewish law.
It was a confusing time for me. On one hand, I was taught to be an advocate for those who did not have a voice and now I was penalized for exercising my rights. I’ve come to understand that people have the right to protest, to share their views, but not at the expense of other’s safety and well-being.
Though I was banned for few years from religious school. I was able to participate in an educational tour in Israel as a high school student. I studied at Hebrew University, explored archeological sites, lived on a kibbutz, and pondered the existential question of whether I was an American Jew or a Jewish American. That question was put to rest once I returned back to the United States.
Being a proud Jewish American was ingrained into my upbringing, into the very fabric of how our family lived our lives and served our nation. My father, a child survivor of four concentration camps, came to Colorado because it reminded him of his home in Hungary, but with bigger mountains. He joined the U.S. Army out of a sense of gratitude and loyalty for his new country which he wanted to defend and protect, especially our freedom to practice any religion without fear of retribution or death.
[The Op-Ed from Combat Anti-Semitism continues]
My father died in 2016 and I can’t imagine what he would say today. Would he warn us or would he still believe in the kindness of neighbors?
I’m an American Jew. The United States is my home and I want to feel safe. I want everyone to feel safe. It was how I was raised.
The op-ed was authored by Saralyn Mark, MD, a Washington, D.C.-based physician and founder/president of iGIANT (impact of Gender/Sex on Innovation and Novel Technologies) and SolaMed Solutions, LLC. She is a frequent media contributor and author of “Stellar Medicine: A Journey Through the Universe of Women’s Health” and host of the “Always Searching” podcast. Dr. Mark is also a member of the People4Peace Steering committee.
View this Combat Anti-Semitism Op-Ed from January 18th