I wish I could say that I have always been proud of my Jewish heritage. Not once in my life have I ever been ashamed of my Mexican roots. Not for even one moment have I felt embarrassed or apologetic of my Hispanic ethnicity. But being Jewish ... that's a whole other story.

For thousands of years, the world's biggest problems have been attributed to the Jews.

Hunted and murdered in medieval Europe, we were blamed for poisoning the wells and spreading the plague -- the portrayal of Jews as rats was even utilized as hateful propaganda during the Holocaust. The blood libels that Jews kill Christian children and drink their blood have survived even to this day -- I have personally encountered people who believed this to be true. From being the poor people draining society and causing the downfall of the German economy (Hitler's Mein Kampf) to being the filthy rich people who control the media (present day). We were the people without a land and now we are the occupiers of our own indigenous homeland.

{ And because I fear I will not be given the benefit of the doubt and can already feel eyebrows rising, please allow me to assuage any concerns you may have -- I also recognize the right of any Palestinian person who wishes to live peacefully and in dignity alongside their Jewish neighbors. I wholeheartedly believe Palestinians have a right to self-determination, and hope with every fiber of my being that one day they may have their own free, democratic state with a Pride parade to rival that of Tel Aviv's. I pray for peace every single day, and I will never lose faith that Jews and Muslims can live side by side. I have seen it with my own eyes, and know it in my heart to be true. }


I was 10 years old the first time I can remember feeling "othered." A fellow classmate approached me on the playground during recess and asked me "Hey Anna, what's the difference between a pizza and a Jew?" to which I nervously responded "I don't know....what?" and the "punchline" of this horrific "joke" (if you can even call it that) has stuck with me for the last 19 years. He looked me squarely in the eyes and said with a straight face "A pizza doesn't scream when it's put in the oven." Now, at this point I was too young to fully comprehend the horror that was the Holocaust, but I was not unfamiliar with the gas chambers. I may not have grasped the concept of ethnic cleansing, but I did know that my grandmother, her half-sister, and their cousin were the only members of their family to escape the pograms and death camps of Nazi Germany. The only Jewish child in my class, I can recall the fear and shame I felt as that boy pointed and laughed at the confused, pained expression on my face. To this day I wonder where this child heard such a heinous thing. My parents' attempt to address the incident with the school was met with "kids will be kids."

Just this week I was horrified to see a new drink being advertised at a major coffee chain in Jordan -- a country I was overjoyed to visit and have fond memories of. The drink is called "Hologast" and it is a hot cocoa topped with white marshmallows painted with blue Stars of David that are burned flambe style with a blowtorch when served to you....

At 16 years old, I ran for student body President. There were campaign posters of my face with the tagline "Anna B. your next President" ("B" being the first letter of my last name. As Anna was a common name in my school, some knew me as Anna B) displayed all over the school. The day that our history class covered the Holocaust was the day that I discovered swastikas spray painted across my face on nearly every poster. Once again, my parents' attempt to address the hate crime was met with resistance and indifference. They were told, "teens will be teens" and there was nothing to be done without cctv footage. It was not until my mother spoke out during a parent-teacher association meeting that the school agreed to make a half-hearted announcement that hate speech of any kind would not be tolerated on campus. There was no mention of antisemitism or the specific vandalism being referenced. Once again, I internalized this response as, "No one cares. Jewish voices don't matter." But what impacted me the most was the reaction of someone I had, up until that moment, considered a dear friend. When I came to her, distraught and shaken, and handed her one of the defiled posters with red paint plastered over my smile, she laughed in my face and said "that's funny"....I was shocked, completely taken aback. How could she find this funny? How could anyone -- let alone someone who was supposedly my friend -- find this even remotely amusing? She never apologized, and I never saw her the same way again.

During university, I was mostly met with shock and surprise when someone learned I am Jewish. I was told "wow, you're actually attractive for a Jew'" but the most common response by far was, "But you don't look Jewish." Apparently, from what I've been told, the size of my nose throws people off. And in the most extreme case, while traveling in Asia, my physical lack of horns was cause for confusion and disbelief.


After October 7, before I had had a moment to breathe, before bodies had been buried, before each of my loved ones had been accounted for, I was horrified to see hordes of people actually celebrating the most violent massacre against Jews in one day since the Holocaust. People I had held in highest regard were posting partial, if not completely false, narratives attempting to contextualize barbaric crimes against humanity on social media. "By any means necessary" is an abhorrent concept. Torture, rape, mutilation, beheading, and kidnapping civilians can never be justified. Period. If you disagree, I would ask you with all the kindness I can muster to look inward and explore why that may be.

On October 10th, I went to Boston to help take care of my baby niece, Romi, while my sister and brother-in-law went to a wedding overseas. They live in one of the largest Jewish neighborhoods in Massachusetts. While on the "T" (aka the metro), just two stops before their apartment, I overheard a woman say "and we have to live near 'those people'. I took out my earbud and caught the tail end of her conversation -- "They absolutely deserved it. All of it. The Jews had it coming." I was flabbergasted, frozen with disbelief. Knowing full well she was referring to the terrorist attack only three days prior, I must have misheard her. As she passed in front of me to exit the metro, I lifted my head and calmly said, "you could not be more wrong." At first she seemed slightly startled but then she sneered and shrugged. She looked me dead in the eye and said "What goes around, comes around." and stepped off the train.

I glanced around at the numerous fellow passengers within ears reach and noticed that those not staring intently at their phones were looking directly at their shoes. I immediately started shaking. How could that person be so cruel? So openly? So brazenly? How could she so smugly, almost gleefully, believe that anyone could possibly deserve to be murdered indiscriminately? There is footage -- circulated by the terrorists themselves -- showing children were dismembered alive in front of their screaming parents; and parents were dismembered alive in front of their screaming children. A Holocaust survivor watched her son being murdered in front of her eyes. A young boy covered in his father's blood cried out "why am I still alive?" A mother was forced to listen to her baby's screams as he was burned alive in an oven. Independent reports have now been able to verify that elderly women and young girls were raped so violently that their pelvis and spines broke. Cruelty of truly unimaginable proportions -- it is difficult enough just to write this. People were brutalized so badly that they are still identifying the remains of bodies over a month later, and I can't help but think that had I been in Israel, I could have been one of the victims of the Nova Peace, Love, and Nature Party.

A few minutes later, I stepped off the metro. Still shaking, I began sobbing uncontrollably. That was my first experience coming face to face with someone who legitimately believes that the horrors that were inflicted on innocent civilians on October 7 are somehow, in any way justified. Put politics aside. If someone is unable to unequivocally condemn the crimes against humanity perpetrated by Hamas, if they are a person with such darkness in their hearts that they would view tearing down the poster of a kidnapped three year old as morally superior, I am genuinely concerned for their soul (and I am not even religious).

My perfect niece Romi, who is three years old, attends a Jewish daycare that now requires around-the-clock security because it, like almost every Jewish school in the United States, has received countless threats of violence in recent weeks. Imagine the nationwide fury that would (justifiably) ensue if attacks against [insert literally ANY other minority group here] students had risen 700% in the span of a month and their schools required constant security to defend against a barrage of violent threats? Why does this outrage not exist for Jews?

85 years after the Holocaust and I am beginning to understand how it could have ever happened. I used to struggle with this concept. It was unconscionable to imagine a world where such blatant evil was able to fester and thrive. But now, seeing the delegitimization of Israeli victims and survivors of sexual assault, the dehumanization of innocent civilians taken hostage and buried alive in the tunnels of Gaza, the vilification of the Israeli Defense Forces, and the double standards placed on the Israeli government....I am deeply saddened that my grandmother is alive to see such a widespread explosion of antisemitism again.

{ This is not ever to say that criticism of the Israeli government is unwarranted -- in fact some of the biggest critics are my Israeli friends and I have the utmost respect for the democratic system that allows them to protest against leadership and/or policy they disagree with. But when I ask someone -- usually neither Jewish nor Arabic -- who is currently up in arms about the conflict, 9 times out of 10 they have never even heard of the mass interment of Uyghurs and other Turkish muslims in Chinese concentration camps that have become the largest-scale detention of an ethnic or religious minority since WW2. }


Those of you who read my first submission ("All You Need is Love") may recall that I have spent the last several years volunteering and working abroad. To me, the most important aspect of my travels has been the international family I have been fortunate enough to cultivated along the way. But, after I began trying to raise awareness of the hostages kidnapped by Hamas, the meaning of phrases such as "From the River to the Sea" and "Intifada revolution there is only one solution", and sharing my experiences traveling and volunteering in Israel, the West Bank, Egypt, and Jordan for over a year, I was met with such vitriol as I had never witnessed before. People I had only crossed paths with once, who had never stepped foot in the Middle East, were attempting to gaslight and invalidate my lived experience, my identity, my truth.

Over the last several weeks, I have been forced to mourn many of these previously cherished connections. People whom I considered to be chosen family have turned their back on me. Relationships where I had once been able to rely on mutual respect and trust have completely crumbled.

Simultaneously, I have never felt more appreciative or closer to the loved ones who have stayed. Refusing to hide who I am, I am able to confidently trust the acceptance of those who remain closest to me.

I refuse to stop trying to find common ground with those who would see me as their enemy. I refuse to stop seeing the humanity in all of us. I refuse to let hatred poison my heart. I refuse to close myself off to the possibility of mutual respect, empathy, and peace. I refuse to let fear or anger control my actions.

According to the FBI, 60% of hate crimes committed in the USA are against Jews, and yet we make up 2% of the American population. Not willing to admit that I had internalized antisemitism, I once made the off-handed comment that I am Jew-"ish". I would make Jewish slurs and make fun of my ethnicity to show others I am a "good Jew". No more. Jews make up less than 0.2% of the world's population and yet 22% of Nobel prize winners have been Jewish. No longer will I apologize for the Jewish blood in my veins. No longer will I care more about the acceptance of others than of my own self worth, dignity, and pride. I am a MexiJew through and through, and I vow to love my Jewishness more than anyone could ever hate me for it. After all, love will always be stronger than hate.

Am Yisrael Chai - The People of Israel Live; עם ישראל חי

La'Chaim - to Life; לחיים