How to Avenge October 7, the Jewish Way

Now is the time to really double down.
October 18, 2023
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Ruth Swerdlow has done it. The Los Angeles native turned 100 on Saturday, and according to her daughter, Yael, one of the reasons she’s still here is because “she continually exhibits Jewish joy and resilience.” And, added Yael, “The past few weeks have broken her heart, but she still believes in peace and wants to live long enough to see it.”

I like to think that another reason why G-d has let Ruth live this long is to stick it to Hamas.

Jewish friends worldwide have told me that they’re filled with an urge to take revenge against Hamas for carrying out the biggest massacre of Jews since the Holocaust. To them and millions of other Jews who have (rightly) personalized the attacks in Israel as an assault against them as well, I offer one message: If you really want to stick it to Hamas and to everyone else who can’t tolerate the existence of Jews, double down on everything Jewish.

If my sheer existence is too much for Hamas and others, I’m going to be more of myself, not less. 

It’s simple: If my sheer existence is too much for Hamas and others, I’m going to be more of myself, not less. If I was proudly Jewish before, I am now actively finding ways to be overwhelmingly Jewish. Dare I say, gratuitously Jewish?

Those four guests I was thinking of inviting over for Shabbat? Make ‘em 12. Some of them will have to sit on each other’s laps, but they won’t mind, because we’ll eat, sing and exude Judaism with every bite. 

The $52 tzedakah donation I often send to a Jewish charity? Make it $152. 

That photo of me from a Birthright trip to Israel in 2008, possibly hung over and still in disbelief that I hiked Masada at dawn? I unearthed it and it’ll be my new Facebook profile picture.

That huge jar of jellied gefilte fish at a supermarket in Culver City? I’m still not buying it, but if its powerful odor will send Hamas running for cover, I’ll happily ship a few hundred jars of it to the IDF to hurl over the border. 

I understand that we, world Jewry, are currently not okay, whether we’re atheists or Orthodox. And that our smartphone apps, once guilty pleasures of social media escapism, are now the very devices of our torture and heartbreak. 

I also understand that safety concerns are a vital factor, but for Jews who live outside of Israel, this is not the time to sigh, “I feel like staying under the covers this Shabbat,” “I don’t feel like going to a rally right now” or, in my case, “I don’t feel like learning how to do needlework and buying copious amounts of blue and white yarn to make solidarity trivets.” 

Yes, solidarity trivets. They may not work under hot pans, due to their many holes, and I may end up knitting something that looks more like a Christmas stocking than a trivet, but the lopsided Star of David in their center will speak for themselves. 

Now is the time to really double down. Take it from actress and Jewish activist Debra Messing: Last week, she posted a photo on Instagram in which she wore a Star of David necklace, above a Chai necklace, above a map of Israel necklace. Three necklaces, the last one the most courageous, especially for a celebrity. Her photo caption? Three simple words: “Loud and proud.”

As Jews, each of us is now serving in a defense unit. Some are fighting Hamas terrorists (as are non-Jewish Israeli soldiers), and to them, we owe everything. Others are fighting wars on social media, in the classroom, at corporations, at their local newspaper and elsewhere. Today, we each have a role in the war front. 

But as we fight, we also need to carve out small spaces of joy. Jewish joy. Hamas doesn’t only love dead Jews: It would also love to know that Jews can’t bring themselves to smile or laugh anymore; that a Jew in Los Angeles, New York, Paris or Casablanca suffered a heart attack because he or she was under so much stress from the barbaric videos they’ve seen; or that, perish the thought, a Jew anywhere has lost his or her appetite for good. 

On Instagram and X/Twitter, I’m not only sharing heartbreaking stories or exposing the seething racism of pro-Hamas activists in the West; I’m sharing content that runs the gamut of the Jewish experience, including humor. That includes hilarious photos that IDF soldiers have shared, including how some of them have received less than helpful supplies from some well-intentioned Jews abroad, such as soldiers who received adult diapers (and posed wearing them) and male soldiers who received packages of feminine care products (and also posed holding those boxes). 

I’ve also shared an endearing video of an IDF reservist in northern Israel who, despite having lost five close friends (plus two who were kidnapped and are still missing), assured Jews worldwide that Israel would win this war, but also joked, “The reservists are an amazing thing. All ages report here. I swear, there’s someone in our company so old that I think his caretaker signed for his equipment.”

I know this doesn’t seem like a time to laugh. But Jews are a funny people, even on the frontlines. And the more we remember who we are, the more we’ll feel invested in fighting for our right to exist, and thrive.

Like you, I am heartbroken. But we can tend to our hearts, while also strengthening them.

The next time we feel the urge to get under the covers, doomscroll, then fall asleep depressed and anxious, let’s remember that Israelis would be energized to know that Jews worldwide are living with more passion for life, not less. Like you, I am heartbroken. But we can tend to our hearts, while also strengthening them. 

So have Shabbat dinner this week, invite over a friend, commit to a new mitzvah; learn Hebrew, and if you already know some Hebrew, learn more; visit Israel this spring (that plane ticket will hopefully accrue some cash back on your credit card); next fall, hold off on the Halloween decorations and buy a sukkah; belt out “Shema Israel” before bed, even if the last time you recited it, you were 13. Ask a rabbi to give you a Jewish middle name (it’s never too late). And buy the gefilte fish. If it helps to connect you with your true self — a Jew — it’s a good thing.

And never forget the remainder of the message in the video from the soldier in the north, mentioned above: 

“I think we’ve forgotten recently who and what Israel is. We were against each other for a long period, right versus left, left versus right, and we forgot who the real enemy is. We’ve also forgotten how many amazing people live in Israel … The desire to help, contribute, volunteer, assist, cuddle; anything that can be done, Israelis are doing. It boosts morale like crazy, even when it’s tough. We (soldiers) just start going for two minutes on the APC (armored personnel carrier) and get rained on with falafel and portable chargers (referring to the multitudes of supplies being sent to the IDF). Okay, I’ve churned out a speech worthy of the defense minister, at least. I need to go. In short, those at home: Stay strong. And those in the field: Stay even stronger. For my psychologist: Get ready for 453 sessions the week I return.”

Tabby Refael is an award-winning writer, speaker and civic action activist. Follow her on Instagram and X/Twitter @TabbyRefael


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