They were there. I could see them, a few people in the distance, blurred by the fog.

A disheveled group, they carried blankets and suitcases. All appeared frightened and transparent, a ghostly lot indeed. These were my relatives, the ones I had never met, the ones the ovens had claimed.

Was I dreaming? I couldn’t be sure ….

“Get out voices yelled, run away fast as you can.” Their English was not the English of my parents, it was flecked with Yiddish, and the guttural sounds of German. “But where do I run,” I yelled through the fog, “I am here in America, it is the last stop….There is no place to run.”

For those here in America the dream had been fulfilled. Second generation Americans were born, just across the sea from their shoeless European ancestors. Those shoes now line the Holocaust museum, a memorial to  their owners who walked shoeless into the Nazi ovens.

I always felt safe in America. This was my land. Just like in the song, her purple mountains rang out the music of the country in my soul. 1950’s America was not fair to all, but what was written in the rules was .… “Justice for all.” it was just a matter of a few good men and time. And the times they were a changing, as marches and songs, and legislation gave way to a fairer path for all America’s citizens.

But once more the times have changed in America. Instead of the song ringing out with the majesty of purple mountains, street chants ring out between tall buildings in our cities calling for the extermination of Jews. Shrouded in the cloak of condemnation of the war in Gaza, antisemitism is in fashion. Movie stars and pop stars join rallies, which while condemning the war in Gaza, support the destruction of the Jewish people. It’s ok again to threaten Jews, these “evil people of the Book.” So whilst the FBI and local law enforcement must cope to protect Jewish citizens and sites, marchers go through streets and shopping centres and colleges using free speech as their mantle. Would they be able to do this to any other people? The people who had been in the front row of the American civil rights movement now need protection. Where are their protectors?

For the Jews of years past, postwar America was truly the “Promised Land.” Here they could be free citizens. They could wear 14K gold Stars of David on glittery neck chains at the beach. Now gold stars are tucked inside shirts, not to be seen.

European relatives had worn yellow starred armbands on trains en route to the concentration camps. In America, camps were for summer vacations, not for obliteration.

It has been said that the Jews of the Holocaust went to the camps quietly. There was blame for not fighting back, with what, pots and pans were not effective weapons? But this generation will not go to camps. They will not be sheep. They are aware of what could happen.  This time they have weapons, and a will forged knowing history may repeat itself.

We were safe and happy in the postwar USA, while our displaced European relatives swarmed Israel for the safety of the land of milk and honey. To American Jews it was not terribly important that neighbourhoods and country clubs might be restricted. Only McCarthy’s witch hunts for Jewish lefties rang a bell of real concern.

Living in a multi cultural neighbourhood in the 1950’s Jewish boys might face taunts while walking home from Hebrew school. It was just a fact of life. In a neighbourhood made up of Jews, Irish, Italian, Hispanic and Black children we let it go ….  kids would be kids.

But these are not the kids of the 1950’s. These are people with a plan, these young adults who terrorise college students on campus. Students hid in the library at Cooper Union College as a mob beat on the glass windows. Students on campuses have been surrounded by angry protestors. At Stamford Universjty a lecturer, Ameer Hasan Loggins, had Jewish students identify themselves. He then told them to grab their belongings and stand in a corner, saying ‘This is what Israel does to the Palestinians,”

Let’s not mix up taunting “kids on the block” from these organised young adults with a mission to demonise and eliminate Jews. We are “not Kansas anymore Dorothy.”

Despite some conflicts in that 1950’s neighbourhood we grew up together, amongst each other’s traditions. Few were well to do. In the conglomerate of different backgrounds our common denominators were income and the promise that was America.  All could relate to limited economic resources …, anyway the parks were free as were the New York City colleges. Most would go further than their ancestors towards the American Dream. Now those same New York City colleges where numerous Nobel laureates, where Jewish leaders, scientists and artists were educated have succumbed to antisemitic bullies.

Now we live in the new cyber-cultural America where unbalanced people use the internet as a platform to tweet and post horrific diatribes. In the past few years America’s rhetoric has become toxic to the sane amongst us, a bonfire of ill will and violence. Our democracy is in danger, and social media has aided in spewing hate. It gives platform for hate and flares antisemitism.

Where are you Norman Rockwell? Where are your iconic paintings that celebrated the Four Freedoms …. Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear? My relatives must have envisioned your message even before you conceived it. That was why they were walking towards America, suitcases and blankets in tow. But that was long ago.

Now I know now why those ghosts were speaking to me, they see the danger, they are warning me. These voices have been speaking to me for a while. October 7th gave them reason to rise loudly, to warn me even more to be aware of the hate that is in the world …. foolish me, a little Jewish American girl who believed the dream.

But where will I go? Do I take my grandchildren with Irish last names with me? Hitler didn’t care if you were not a practicing Jew, he went back generations, one drop of the wrong blood and you were  issued a “J” card, and a train ticket to Hell.

Will there be a train waiting for me?

Article by Author/s
Jackie Friedman
Jackie Friedman has a BA in Speech and Theatre and a MA in Early Childhood Education. She has always been fascinated by stories about real people, and that has led her to explore memoir as a primary genre. She often threads political and historic elements into her work. Jackie has been published in “The East Hampton Star,” “The Darien News,” “Long Island Newsday” and “The Scarsdale Enquirer.” She appeared on the web at “Every Family’s Got One.” In addition she participates in “Story Salon East,” a group that shares stories before an audience. She is also an enthusiastic member of the Scarsdale Scribes and the Darien Writers’ Workshop.


  1. Jackie, remember the days when we travelled around the world, hitching a ride at times from natives? We ventured around, carefree, knowing that w e ould pick up our letters and postcards at the next stop, the American Embassy. We were worry-free because we knew our passports guaranteed that we’d be safe; we had the U.S. government behind us and they’d never let us languish in a foreign jail. Right, well, with no such assurances available today, we’ve become travellers who are more skittish and yes, afraid, than ever before. Jews or other citizens no longer feel protected by their country.

  2. Joann Goldberg Reply

    Very moving Jackie. Those who don’t learn from history, are doomed to repeat it……. NEVER FORGET!

  3. Sandie Kleiman - Peleg Reply

    As I read your article it made me think so much of how it’s happening here in Australia . How we as Jewish people do not have support from the Aust Government or police. How the Greens support terrorist organisations make the Jewish people the wrongdoers.Its scary how suddenly the country of my birth where I always felt safe no longer feels that way. My family came before the war. Mum was born here in Aust. I didn’t hear war stories growing up around Carlton Victoria. As my social group grew I learnt of the horrors. I became a teacher taught in most of Melb. Jewish schools and I always said it didn’t matter which Judaism you followed we are all Jews. Always I said as you reiterated Hitler didn’t differentiate Jews and now it’s happening again. The haters want to destroy the Jewish homeland and all those in the diaspora. But this time we will not be silent we will not believe false promises or so called ceasefires without return of hostages. War is ugly and not without consequences however Israel’s will to survive gives us all the will to survive. We must continue to speak up loudly against antisemitism throughout the world

Write A Comment


Enter your email address below to subscribe to our newsletter