As Jews, we understand the dangers inherent in inflammatory rhetoric like this, which seeks to divide the country and create an “other” worthy of disdain and even hatred. We understand that there is a thin line between “send her back” and “send them back,” and that targeting people of color can easily lead to targeting Jews.
While you may disagree with U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar’s outspoken stance on Israel, you can’t argue that she raised herself out of poverty, is a naturalized citizen of this country, was nominated to the Minnesota House of Representatives by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, and was democratically elected by her constituency. If Omar were white, her story would be the American dream; in fact, my grandmother, Esther Fieldman, lived that very same dream. In 1961, she was the first Jewish woman elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives. Representing the same DFL Party, in many ways my grandmother blazed the trail for Omar’s ascension in politics, a fact that makes me proud even if we disagree in many critical ways.
Implying that someone’s citizenship should be revoked, or that they don’t have a legitimate voice in our government, is unacceptable. Attacking someone’s socioeconomic background, instead of engaging with them in civil dialogue, fundamentally undermines our American values.
The president’s incendiary language is not just an attack on four women, or on the Democratic Party; it is an attack on freedom of speech, freedom of religion and our civil society. We deserve, and should demand, better.