From its start in 1906, A Bintel Brief was a pillar of the Forward, helping generations of Jewish immigrants learn how to be American. Now our columnists are helping people navigate the complexities of being Jewish in 2020. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you need to move?
I’m looking for a new home or apartment during the Covid-19 virus. It’s quite challenging. Sellers are reluctant to have potential buyers visit the home and only offer virtual tours. I’m beginning to think that the only Yiddish “d” word I should use is “danken Got!” (Thank G-d) I’m not desperate. I’m not being evicted!
My real estate broker keeps telling me “Deigeh night!” (Don’t worry!) We’ll find you a home before school starts in September. Should I change brokers?
— MW, Syosset, N.Y.
Have you heard of feng shui? Or major tchotchke overhaul?
If there is no need to move right now, please just stay put. Sometimes all you need is to shove the couch in a different corner and grab some potted plants to rejuvenate your home. Maybe I’m being mishugenah, but as of 10 minutes ago, the United States just set its record for the highest single day number of daily Covid cases.
We are all going stir crazy and need a change of scenery. But for now, start with a stroll around the block. Dayeinu!
I feel afraid about white nationalism and growing anti-Semitism. How do I keep going? — Stuck in Fear
I hear you. I feel you. And yet, tough gefilte. We have to keep going.
You’re right, there’s so much to fear right now. I flip-flop between the pandemic, systemic racism, and the roles I play in each of them, for starters. Which usually leads to a glass of wine, a full-blown tantrum, or both. But my 11-year-old daughter is fed up with this behavior. She just finished learning about slavery and the Holocaust in school, and is not asking me any questions.
None. Not, “How could this happen?” or “Why didn’t anyone stop this?” Not even, “How did they choose Anne Frank’s diary out of all of them?” (My burning question as an 11-year-old.)
I’m not blaming her. There has been so much to absorb in her life. She was born a month before Barack Obama was elected and now I’m taking her to Black Lives Matter protests. Whether I wanted her to or not, she’s learned about attacks in schools, synagogues, churches, and, just a few months ago, at a kosher grocery store a few miles from our home.
She was full of questions after that attack in Jersey City, which left five people dead. “Why did they do that?” “Do they want to kill all the Jews?” “Are they coming for us next?” I tried to calm her down. Told her about the security system we have and the safe community we live in and all the wishy-washy it’ll be OK phrases that I could think of. She wasn’t convinced. But she did get quieter.
And that’s what I fear: That we’ll get quiet. That we’ll stop marching, stop screaming, stop asking questions. Remember, the paralyzing fear you feel is just a glimpse at what so many people in the world live with from the moment they’re born. White nationalism and anti-Semitism have been here all along; many of us are just now waking up to this reality.
Stuck, pick one way to actively engage with this terrifying world. My favorite activity these days is working through Layla Saad’s workbook, Me and White Supremacy. It’s a fascinating, terrifying read with questions so you can write about your beliefs; an internal call-to-arms.
This is how we start getting unstuck.
Can I profit at a non-profit?
I want to work for a Jewish non-profit; their mission is meaningful to me and I want to serve my community. But they’re making budget cuts (due to corona?), and can’t pay me much. How do I decide whether to take a lower salary with a Jewish non-profit or a higher salary somewhere else?
There is only one answer here: if you can afford to take the pay cut and the work is meaningful to you, take the job.
I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that the world is on fire. Our only real power is to be of use. So be of use! Yes, making more money might make you feel more secure in some ways. But it is a greater privilege to do work you believe in. Take the pay cut and get to work repairing the world.
Abby Sher and Abby Rasminsky are writers living in, respectively, Maplewood, N.J., and Los Angeles. Got a question? Submit your questions to email@example.com.
Is this the right time to move or change jobs?