American Jews face new challenges after Oct. 7

Simone Beilin rallies with her peers at the University of California, Berkeley. Beilin, whose parents immigrated from Soviet Russia to escape antisemitism, appreciates rallies in support of Israel as a reminder of the strength of the Jewish community.
Simone Beilin rallies with her peers at the University of California, Berkeley. Beilin, whose parents immigrated from Soviet Russia to escape antisemitism, appreciates rallies in support of Israel as a reminder of the strength of the Jewish community.
Masha Rozenfeld

Oct. 7, 2023 proved a tragic day when Hamas, a Palestinian militant group, launched a full-scale attack on Israel, prompting the start of the Israel-Hamas war. Despite living across the globe, American Jews still feel the impact of the attack and its subsequent consequences today. 

Barry Cohn

Barry Cohn has been an active member of the Bay Area Jewish community since he was 13 years old. Growing up in the East Bay, Cohn participated in his synagogue’s youth group and has been involved in the Jewish community ever since. 

Cohn’s most recent involvement in the Jewish community includes acting as the chair or capital planning chair for various Jewish organizations, including Jewish Community High School of the Bay (JCHS), Camp Newman, the Magnes Museum, and others.

Cohn’s connection to Israel began on his first trip in 1976. Later, in 1980, he met his wife whose family had lived there since 1931.

“I learned from her what Zionism truly is and adopted the love of the land,” Cohn said.

According to Merriam-Webster, Zionism is “an international movement originally for the establishment of a Jewish national or religious community in Palestine and later for the support of modern Israel.”

Since their marriage, Cohn and his wife have traveled annually to Israel. He even started a real estate business in Israel developing apartment buildings. 

“All the way along until today, we have worked to promote a connection to Israel for our community through investments as well as cultural and educational experiences,” Cohn said.

On Oct. 31, Cohn traveled to Israel to witness the ongoing devastation amidst the war so he could share his firsthand experiences with the local Bay Area community.

Upon his arrival, he immediately learned of the widespread effects of the attack — of the Israelis he encountered, they all personally or mutually knew someone who was captured, wounded, or killed in the aftermath of Oct. 7. 

During his trip, Cohn met with his accountant in a Tel Aviv high-rise. Suddenly, the sound of sirens rang throughout the city, warning citizens of a possible incoming bomb attack. Immediately, they hurried into the floor’s bomb shelter — each floor in the 67-floor building had its own bomb shelter, located in the center of the building, encased in concrete and without windows. 

About 20 people had gathered in the shelter from various offices on the same floor and anxiously looked at their phones, checking the Red Alert app. The app was developed by volunteers for Israeli citizens to be alerted every time rockets, mortars, or missiles were fired into Israel, an exemplification of the dire circumstances that the war has caused.

“While you feel safe in the shelter, you realize that you are 44 stories above the ground and you wonder what would happen if a bomb hits the building. Visions of 9/11 come to mind — you can’t help it. You contemplate your mortality, and then the sirens go off. You go back to the conference table and try to pick up where you left off,” Cohn said.

As for the current situation in America, Cohn is worried about rising antisemitism and thinks the local Jewish community needs to do everything in its power to strengthen ties with pro-Israel organizations.

Antisemitism here could explode.  We need to be prepared for that,” Cohn said.

Keren Pritsker

Keren Pristker, a junior at Mt. Carmel High School in San Diego, was born in Israel and feels a deep connection to the country and its people. She spent the past summer in Israel taking part in a Jewish youth exchange program with Alexander Muss High School.

“Israel is important to me because it is my home and the only place I can go and feel that I have a community with everyone,” said Pritsker.

Israel is important to me because it is my home and the only place I can go and feel that I have a community with everyone.

— Keren Pritsker

She has felt the increase in the presence of antisemitism in her life, especially at her school. 

Pritsker’s school has not addressed the tragic events of Oct. 7, and she feels that most of the students at her school are misinformed, and, therefore, support Hamas, which leaves her feeling isolated. She states that the biggest change in her life since Oct. 7 has been her constant worry about her family as well as for all Israeli people.

“I am out every weekend spreading my message and this has taken up a lot of my life,” Pritsker said.

Simone Beilin

Simone Beilin, a Carlmont High School graduate from Redwood City, is currently a junior at the University of California, Berkeley. 

As an Ashkenazi Jew, Beilin feels a deep connection to her roots in Israel. Her parents were raised in Soviet Russia and immigrated to the United States in search of freedom and to escape antisemitism. Unfortunately, they find themselves facing antisemitism once again. 

“From synagogues being lit on fire to Jewish homes vandalized to murders of innocent Jewish people on the basis of their religion, antisemitism is rampant. Israel is the rejection of a Jewish destiny of victimhood. It is about the Jewish people, for the first time in history, taking our fate into our own hands. It is the right of the Jewish people to have a country in our indigenous homeland — a universal right,” Beilin said.

According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), antisemitism has increased by 388% in the U.S. since Oct. 7.  Beilin has experienced this firsthand through verbal harassment. Further, many of Beilin’s classmates have been physically assaulted.  

Feeling isolated at Berkeley, Beilin immediately took the opportunity to attend the March for Israel in Washington, D.C, on Nov. 15. The march, which garnered tens of thousands of supporters, allowed Jews, Israelis, and their allies to gather in solidarity and support of Israel. 

“The rally was powerful, uplifting, emotional, and an experience I will remember for the rest of my life. It reminded me that the Jewish community is stronger than any of the hate it has ever faced. We have remained resilient through generations of exile, prosecution, pogroms, and genocide, and we will continue to be Jewish, to spread love, and to stand for peace,” Beilin said.

About the Contributor
Masha Rozenfeld, Staff Writer
Masha Rozenfeld is a junior at Carlmont and this is her second year with Scot Scoop. She wants to keep people informed through journalism and help people see both sides of a story. Other than journalism, Masha enjoys, playing soccer, traveling, and hanging out with her friends. Twitter: @masha_roze Instagram: @masha_roze

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  • T

    TJan 19, 2024 at 1:57 am

    This article is so tone-deaf. Immediately, the use of the ADL is a red flag. Further, the constant mention of bombings and genocide are so one-sided while Israel bombs Palestine killing now almost 25,000 people and arguably committing a genocide.

    sources: by Raz Segal Associate Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies