How I'm Teaching My Jewish Daughters About Donald Trump
The sky was still dark when I woke up the children. I had them put on layers, comfortable shoes, and of course, pussy hats. We piled into the car and drove an hour into the city, where they marched for hours. My two 7-year-olds and my 4-year-old, all girls, surrounded by a sea of hundreds of thousands of people.
“Everyone is so happy to see you,” I told them, and they were. Every few steps another protester stopped to take a photograph of my three little girls, holding their handmade signs. My twins carried signs that said, “Girls Can Do Anything,” and “Equal Rights,” and “I’m In Charge of My Body.” The 4-year-old carried a sign she insisted should say, “Girls can be smart AND fabulous!” They believe those words with all their hearts.
They know a lot about President Donald Trump, and a lot about the people who support him. During the presidential primaries, we had many talks about the differences between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, and even more importantly, their differences with Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Like millions and millions of Americans, my daughters and I are not Christians. And like a few million Americans, we are Jewish. That meant whenever a candidate talked about how America is a “Christian Nation,” I explained to my children that our Constitution, and our Bill of Rights, says otherwise.
Also, like millions and millions of Americans, I am a survivor of sexual violence. When Trump was heard on tape not only confessing to sexual assault, but planning to commit more acts of sexual violence, I talked to my daughters again. I told them what I tell them most days: “You are in charge of your body. Nobody is allowed to touch it, or grab it, or make you do things with it. If anybody, ever, touches you and you do not want them to, it is not your fault.”
On Sunday, two days after the inauguration of [Trump], our Synagogue and Hebrew School had a lockdown drill.
So, like 2.9 million Americans, on Saturday morning we took to the streets. We marched for hours, then returned to our lovely, quiet suburban home, exhausted. And in the morning, we woke again to go to Hebrew School.
Only it wasn’t Hebrew School as usual. Over the last few weeks, dozens of Jewish Community Centers in the United States have been targeted with bomb threats. Hate crimes against Jewish people have risen, in some places by 110 percent. So on Sunday, two days after the inauguration of a man who's appointed people who've expressed anti-semitic views to his transition team and cabinet, our Synagogue and Hebrew School had a lockdown drill.
I watched children cower behind couches in the corner in the school library, as silent as they could be, pretending there might be somebody coming to kill them. One of the girls had left her book on a seat — she was reading Letters from Rifka, a childhood favorite of mine, about a girl fleeing religious persecution in Russia in the years leading up to the Holocaust.
On the shelf behind that seat sat a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. I stared at the cover, imagining Anne Frank and her family hiding in their attic. Silently. Cowering as people with guns went through the house, searching for Jews.
Thanks to Donald Trump’s election, thanks to the year he spent courting Neo-Nazis who prefer the name “alt-right,” garnering endorsements from the KKK and the American Nazi Party, this is what my children are being taught to do.
I realized then that I spent the weekend teaching my children the two things they have to know to survive a Trump presidency: They must learn to stand up and be seen, to demand to be treated with dignity and respect. But they must also learn to hide, to be safe when the white nationalist tide Trump has attempted to ride comes flooding towards our doors.
As a woman and a mother, I felt so much less alone on Saturday, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of my new closest friends. But as a Jew, I feel frighteningly alone. I have spent many Sundays at Hebrew school, learning how Hitler and Stalin and Mussolini rallied countries full of reasonable, rational people into exterminating minorities, and now I am watching a Press Secretary flat out deny that what people can see with their own eyes is true. I see political operatives throw phrases around like “Alternative Facts,” and tell us that we cannot trust our own senses.
On Saturday, I took my daughters to be part of something huge. Something meaningful and important, that they will someday read about in history books and remember. And on Sunday, I took them to what is already a routine exercise in their lives— something even more huge, and more meaningful. On Sunday, when we practiced hiding silently from somebody coming to kill us, they were also part of something huge. They were part of why it was so necessary that we march at all.