Racing Against Hate Like My Life Depends On It 

By Suzie Pollak Becker 

 

I always have a valid passport, cash on hand and a heightened fight or flight instinct braided like challah into my DNA. Why? Because all four of my grandparents were hunted, captured, tortured and marked for extinction. Their grandparents escaped pogroms. My most curious cousin traced us getting chased out of our homes as far back as the Spanish Inquisition. My mom was raised in Israel between sirens and taking

shelter during the Sinai War, Six-Day War, War of Attrition and Yom Kippur War. Until she emigrated here in 1975 and met my father. They were introduced by their fathers. Frankly, they were only alive because both men had watched their first wives and children be slaughtered. 

My experience with race is unique to my upbringing and informs my biases. In my home, we didn’t choose whether we would discuss people hating or wanting us dead. Every single person I grew up with — my parents, sisters, cousins and first classmates —  are named for someone who was murdered for being a Jew by a member, supporter or opportunist of the Nazi party. The Bible stories we read and holidays we celebrate are a series of: “They tried to kill us. Thank God we survived. Let’s eat.” 

Generational trauma is something that millions of people deal with every day. I addressed mine by working on character development and community outreach. Knowing that my grandparents were survivors of a nearly successful, systematic genocide because of their race made me understand that I had to have my finger on the pulse of progress. So this means I’ve spent a lifetime navigating the mixed messages we get hit with daily. You know those conversations where we wonder if it’s safe to speak our minds? Can we share our experiences? Should we voice our fears and concerns or just keep our mouths shut? As author and psychologist Edith Eger says, “You can’t heal what you don’t feel.” 

So I leaned all the way into building my compassion and awareness muscle and using my well-honed and not shy #StandUpSpeakOut skills for everyone. Because our hearts beat in a different language, we have to accept when people tell us how they feel and nobody should be forced to prove the extent of the discrimination they faced. #MeToo #BlackLivesMatter #LoveIsLove #StopAsianHate 

 

I decided that my part in our collective responsibility to our global citizenship would be understanding how we became disconnected and work on how to de-silo our communities. So I have been listening, receiving, exploring, questioning and feeling it all while training, navigating and holding accountable.

 But then Kanye and marches … (#NeverAgain? “Not as bad as the Holocaust.”) … Florida-Georgia game (#NeverAgain? “You’re being too sensitive.”) … I95, VyStar building, harassment of Jewish kids on the streets, a rise in antisemitism at higher rates than any other form of racism per the White House and ADL [ Anti-Defamation League] in a matter of months … (#NeverAgain? “We gave you a bill.”) Then Nazis marched freely in the middle of the day, two hours away. (“Before you even start, it’s not that serious.”)

Then someone murdered three people in my hometown at a Dollar General 35 minutes away with a swastika on the gun. I brought my children to stand with our community to grieve the loss of life and teach them in real time how the depraved ideology of a group can cause lasting damage in our hometown. I responded by volunteering to “Resist Hate and Repair The World” at the Jacksonville Public Library, and I became a docent on “The Americans and the Holocaust” exhibit. I explained that the Nuremberg laws of the Nazis were based on the Jim Crow laws in the United States. And that Nazis had sought global domination while succeeding in murdering 13 million people before being stopped. I showed the pictures of Adolf Hitler and the Grand Mufti of Egypt. We talked about propaganda and being a bystander. 

I registered for every single one of the Jewish Community Alliance and First Coast YMCA’s “Together Against Hate: Promoting Unity in Our Community” speaker series events from September through January that address topics impacting our area including prejudices in faith, race, antisemitism, ethnicity, LGBTQ+, gender and diverse abilities. I want to listen and learn from the distinguished speakers from 904Ward, JASMYN, the Anti-Defamation League, The Arc Jacksonville, The LJD Jewish Family & Community Services, OneJax and Interfaith Center, who are empowering our neighbors with the knowledge needed to have a voice in taking a stance against bias. I was making plans to attend a Civil Rights trip to Montgomery.

On October 7, 2023 a series of coordinated attacks by the terrorist group Hamas, from the Gaza Strip, tore into bordering civilian areas of Israel, including the Tribe of Nova Peace Festival, to murder, rape, decapitate, burn and viciously slaughter as many people as they could. Over 1,400 men, women, children and babies were killed in the most gruesome manner known to humanity. They are still trying to identify their bodies by the parts today. We know because the monsters filmed themselves and each other. (#HelpIsrael, See: “People Love Dead Jews” by Dara Horn) 

Hamas terrorists kidnapped over 220 men, women, babies, toddlers and children from Israel back to Gaza. I finally caught my breath for a second to cry out at the single most horrific attack against Jews since the Holocaust.  #NEVER — “Sorry, the statute of limitation has expired.” Also #genocide #colonizer #FreePalestine #FromTheRiverToTheSea.” 

 

Genocide? 150,000

Palestinians have become 2 million.

Colonizer? Ancestral homeland, cousins, sharing is caring

Free Palestine? From Hamas!! 

From The River To The Sea?

Slaughter and murder every single one of us — that can’t be the only option.

Cease fire!

#FREETHEHOSTAGES

#BRINGTHEMHOMENOW

 

There has to be more to our #BOLDCITY than ignorance and propaganda. Join me in modeling #BETHECHANGE for our kids. #CYCLEBREAKERS #ModelCity

 The JCA and First Coast YMCA’s Racing Against Hate 5K Run/Walk at the Winston Family YMCA is on Sunday, Feb. 25, 2024, at 1 pm. I hope to see you there so we can find out the kind of people we are.

 

#WeAreJacksonville

#GlobalCitizenship #GooniesNeverSayDie

#AmIsraelChai

 

Stay inspired,
Suzie

 

“If you don’t know the kind of person I am

and I don’t know the kind of person you are

a pattern that others made may prevail in the world

and following the wrong god home we may miss our star.”

 – William Stafford 

 

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