Embracing Jewish Identity: Defying Fear with Pride

In a world where antisemitism has cast a wide  shadow, many Jewish people call on their loved ones to hide Jewish symbols, much like in the 1930s in Europe. However, history teaches us that hiding didn’t end well for the Jews: six million of them were massacred by Nazi Germany, and it is only now, in 2023, that the number of Jews worldwide is approaching the same amount as before the Holocaust.


On October 7th, nearly 1,200 innocent Israelis, including hundreds of children, babies, women, and the elderly died in a massacre—all in a single day. Never since the Holocaust have so many Jews been killed in one day, forced to hide in closets or under beds as terror knocked on their doors, or pulled out of their homes and taken hostage.


The world’s response to Israel’s decision to eradicate Hamas, the terrorist organization that planned and executed this horrific attack, was swift. Even before any troops hit the ground, protests and antisemitic acts started surfacing. I was shocked. Having grown up in Israel, the land of the Jews, I had never experienced antisemitism before, where I was simply among other Jews without thinking of myself as different in that sense.It is clear that the only form of racism that is acceptable in 2023 is antisemitism. But  I cannot accept it. I will not accept it. And you know what I do with things I can’t accept? I do my best to change them.


Last week, representative Elise Stefanik, a Republican from New York, asked three university presidents whether advocating for the genocide of Jews would violate their universities’ policies on free speech. Sally Kornbluth, MIT’s president, noted that such a call might be considered a violation if it targeted individuals rather than making public statements. Elizabeth Magill, the former president of the University of Pennsylvania, remarked that if speech transformed into conduct, it could be classified as harassment. Claudine Gay, Harvard’s president, added that it could be considered a violation, DEPENDING ON THE CONTEXT.

To put things in perspective and context:
Carole Hooven, a lecturer in human evolutionary biology at Harvard, asserted on national television while discussing her scholarly book on testosterone that there exist two distinct biological sexes: male and female.

In reaction, a graduate student, concurrently the director of her department’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging task force, criticized Hooven’s comments as “transphobic and harmful.” Following this, Hooven was fired, received no support from administrators, and encountered bullying from graduate students.

I wonder why calling for the genocide of the Jews is not harmful or phobic and, context-dependent , is not considered controversial, while Hooven’s science-based statement about gender is.l.

My response to antisemitism is to fight it and educate everyone so that they understand that hateful things  said against Jews should be considered hate speech.

The excuse for allowing these insane calls for violence falls under “freedom of speech”. I agree that  freedom of speech is an important value, it has limits. Hate speech and incitement to violence are generally not protected under the umbrella of free speech, as they can lead to real harm and jeopardize the safety and well-being of individuals and communities. If we can agree on this about Black, Asian, Gay, Gender Neutral, Hispanic, or any other group, why is it acceptable when the subject is a Jew?

It all begins with words, altered by individuals, and repeated by others until it becomes a philosophy and ideology. First, it’s at the education system, and years later it’s the government’s point of view.


Despite my instinct to volunteer for the reserve in Israel, I decided not to go back. Every cell in my body urged me to fight in this war, but I realized how important what I do is. I know that Jews in NYC need me, and others like me. They need a place to learn how to defend themselves and feel at home. They need an Israeli mindset—not to back down, and not to hide, because now it’s time to shine against the darkness of terror with all our might and glory.


The atrocities committed by Hamas have triggered global hate speech against Jews worldwide, leading to antisemitic violence against many peaceful people.


This is a wake-up call. I call on you to proudly embrace your Jewish identity. Now, it is more important than ever before. Instead of succumbing to fear and hiding, it’s time for the community to stand tall, and celebrate our heritage with courage.ear should not dictate how we express our faith.


Living in a diverse society like the United States, where freedom of expression is a fundamental right, Jewish people have an opportunity to reject the notion of living in constant fear. As long as antisemitism exists, it should not overshadow the strength and resilience demonstrated by individuals who refuse to let fear lead them.


The question we each have to ask ourselves is simple: “If everyone would act like me right now, what results are expected?” If you feel the results would not be in your favor, you should change the way you act and encourage others to do the same. As I always say: be a beacon of light to others. Show them the way, and they will follow.


The decision to proudly display Jewish symbols, wear kippahs, and participate in communal activities is an act of defiance against the culture of fear. Rather than letting concerns about rising antisemitic incidents lead to concealment, it’s time to own our identity and heritage. If that is seen as “provoking behavior” to someone, they should be shamed for being racist.


Never before have I felt the need to wear a Star of David, but now I feel naked without it. I am not afraid of being attacked. I am not courageous enough to not wear my identity with pride because I know where that is going to lead my people.


Last month I was attacked in NYC for being Jewish. I didn’t cower, not because I am trained to fight, but because I am not willing to let my kids learn to  “be small because someone else doesn’t like who you are.” Not on my watch. After I wrote about it, many people reached out to me and said, “I wish I knew how to fight back like you do,” or “Well, good you defended yourself, but I don’t think I can do that.” There’s one answer to that: not knowing how to defend yourself is a choice. Krav Maga is no longer recreational; it’s a calling. It’s a mandatory skill in the reality we live in if you wish to survive and thrive.

I understand the internal conflict many Jews have. I really do. It reflects the complexity of personal safety vs. the “greater good.” Some feel hiding is the best form of personal survival even if it harms the diaspora and Israel itself.I understand it, but I wholeheartedly wish that all Jews will shine brighter in the face of antisemitism. 

It’s time for the Jewish community to catch up with the Israeli mentality of survival. Be peaceful, be a lion, and just like the lion, don’t fear standing up for yourself. I call on all of you to redefine the narrative surrounding your identity. Be open to embracing your heritage and participating in communal activities. Engage in dialogues and educate others about our values and who we are. Cultivate your  courage and resilience, not fear. Fear should not dictate the expression of faith; instead, a bold and proud affirmation of Jewish identity will shape the narrative for generations to come.


You will be making history everyday by doing something. 

Do something amazing,


Tsahi Shemesh
Founder & CEO
Krav Maga Experts


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