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December 15, 2021 11:03 am
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‘Teen Vogue’ Uses Hanukkah and Grandparents to Demonize Israel Again

avatar by Leah Freedhoff

Opinion

A temporary menorah is seen on the last night of Hanukkah in the Ukrainian city of Uzhhorod, following an incident of suspected antisemitic vandalism. Photo: Facebook

As a Jewish teenager who is active online, I can say that there is rarely any positive Jewish representation in the media.

From blatantly antisemitic characters on television shows, to promoting outdated stereotypes, it’s difficult for young Jews to feel heard. And when Jewish stories do appear in traditional media outlets — such as this Teen Vogue op-ed — it’s almost always about Jews criticizing Israel. This, despite the fact that most Jews feel Israel is a vital part of their Jewish identity, and that most Jewish teenagers only want to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

It seems as if the editors of these publications have a political agenda they’re trying to promote, and are taking advantage of young Jewish writers to do so.

During Jewish holidays such as Hanukkah, which celebrates a victory against oppression, we should focus on how much our people have overcome. I would love to see articles in non-Jewish media that celebrate this feat, or even on how to make the best latkes, but those pieces never seem to get any attention. It’s only articles attacking Israel that do — like the Teen Vogue piece, which merely used Hanukkah as a way to attack the Jewish state.

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And Teen Vogue has shown that it has a serious anti-Israel problem.

The story of Hanukkah illustrates how important it is that Israel exists. In fact, almost every Jewish holiday is about someone trying to kill us, and us overcoming it. In all these stories, in the end, we always have the same destination: Israel.

The Jewish connection to Israel is undeniable, not to mention well-documented. From the age of 10, my parents have told me that if antisemitism continued to increase and presented a serious threat to our lives — like during the Holocaust — we could flee to Israel. This conversation is something most non-Jewish people don’t have to consider. So why me? Why did 10-year-old me have to be terrified that I might need to leave everything behind?

The threat of antisemitism is persistent in the life of every Jewish person. It boggles my mind that people believe we would be safe without a sovereign Jewish state when we are barely safe with one.

Our grandparents and great-grandparents who survived the Holocaust and other horrors should not be discredited, especially now. We are the last generation that can directly hear their stories.

Young Jews also need to remember that you can support something while still critiquing it. I, for one, am proud of my Jewish roots and where I come from — but I can also be critical of the government of Israel when I disagree with it. You can critique Israel and acknowledge that it isn’t solely to blame for the conflicts in the Middle East.

Had I been exposed to the media’s portrayal of Israel without the strong educational foundation that I have received from my family about my culture and religion, I can’t say that I would feel the way I do today. We can’t preach equal rights in the media and then continuously bash Jews — and the one safe haven for Jews — without thinking of how that affects Jewish youth like myself.

Our grandparents survived war and famine, and dealt with some of the worst of mankind. Many of them would not be alive today without Israel. Our grandparents only want us to live the lives they couldn’t, which is why they understand Israel’s importance. I can’t condone disrespecting one’s grandparents or negating their experiences, just as I can’t condone using the time of Hanukkah to tell my grandparents that their views and experiences about Israel are wrong.

Teen Vogue’s article was an abuse and a desecration.

Hanukkah is about our connection to Judaism and our Jewish homeland. It’s a time to discuss the holidays and the positives of our culture and religion. It would be great to read about such a narrative in outlets like Teen Vogue.

Leah Freedhoff is a High School Intern with Hasbara Fellowships Canada.

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