Sheket! Why Jews True to Their Heritage, Cannot

By Stephen Conn

‘Sheket’! My Hebrew school teacher, Mr. Gold, may his memory be a blessing, would tell me to ‘Shut Up!’ now, as he did so many times nearly 50 years ago.

But I cannot. 

The siege and attack on the Palestine in Gaza is so fundamentally Anti-Jewish that I must speak out. To be silent is to stand with the millions who looked on while Jewish baby boys at precisely the time I was born into the world in Virginia, died at the hands of Nazis and their collaborators in Eastern Europe. I know this to be true because I have researched it at the Holocaust Museum. I know the dates, places and the events. Those crimes are part of my family history. Our souls are united; they died and I lived.

To be silent is to stand with Whites who watched and participated in race discrimination where I grew up or stood silently when I was called “Jew baby” and “Christ Killer” by older neighborhood kids.

After 9-11, I watched silently as a policeman at my SeaTac gate roughly interrogated an Arab professor and his wife on the way to Alaska in front of his children. My inaction haunts me.

For a lifetime, I have stood with indigenous peoples, told their stories, and assisted them when I could. How can I stand silent now and honor them and their histories?

I remember the moment when I learned the new words to the Hatikvah that came with the independence of the Jewish state. I was proud and remain proud to see this evolution from a millennia of Diaspora and persecution, ending with the modern industrialized massacre of six million.

But what I am now seeing is a version of that evil committed by my Landsmen.

So call me anti-Semitic or a self-hating Jew, if you wish. The men, women and children of Palestine are being butchered while the world stands, apparently afraid to be termed anti-Semitic, if it speaks out.

The humanitarian moral code that is profoundly Jewish is not happening in Gaza today. Rabbi Hillel would speak and then turn away in shame. Sorry, Mr. Gold, this is not the time to shut up. Too many souls were murdered by silence.

– Steve Conn is a retired professor at the University of Alaska. He contributed this article to

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