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Israel nominated a ‘proud racist’ to a prominent position. What do I tell my Black Jewish children?

The nomination (and withdrawal) of May Golan to serve as Israel’s consul general in New York has broader lessons for us all

My 6-year-old daughter is working hard to learn Hebrew, but I am grateful she can’t read it yet. If she could, she would know about May Golan and the disgraceful things she has said about Black Africans like her.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently nominated (and un-nominated) Golan, a member of Likud, to the post of Consul General in New York. A vociferous firebrand who rose to prominence campaigning against African asylum seekers, Golan has openly described herself as a “proud racist,” and has stated her refusal to eat near African refugees out of fears of contracting HIV.

My children are Jewish, and they are also African — Ghanaian specifically. They had African baby namings alongside their synagogue ones. They dance to African music with their father, cook African food with their grandmother, and love wearing beautiful traditional African dresses. They eat Jollof rice alongside challah and fry bofrot (Ghanaian doughnuts) on Hanukkah.  They are the perfect picture of multicultural Jewish households, intergenerational love of Israel and of everything I want to pass down. If May Golan looked my African Jewish children in the eye, would she be able to so cruelly and proudly defend her racism to them? Could she look at my newborn and call her an infiltrator?

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Some have tried to argue that Golan’s hate only extends to non-Jewish African refugees who have sought safety in Israel through illegal immigration. But this is a hollow argument, full of moral turpitude. Just like antisemitism, racism does not stay in a tidy box. When hateful beliefs are unleashed, loudly and proudly, they cannot be contained. This vitriol and hate can and will swallow and consume people as its ripple effects rip through societies.

Thankfully, Golan’s nomination drew swift condemnation from American Jewish leaders. Netanyahu quickly backtracked on plans to make her as Israel’s top diplomat in New York. But there is a broader lesson here: Families like mine — mixed race, multicultural, and proudly Jewish are not anomalies. And it is both a tactical error and a grave moral failure to ignore us.

A study commissioned by the Jews of Color Initiative estimated that there are at least one million Jews of color in the United States, 12% to 15% of the country’s total Jewish population. A separate study from Pew Research puts it at 8%. Both studies project that this number will only continue to grow.

There are already countless others of us who have children, spouses and other loved ones who are Jews of color. Pro-Israel America includes moms like me, who are not Black but have Black children. It includes grandparents of Jews of color who have generously donated to Israeli causes their entire lives. We love our kids just as fiercely as we love Israel. We are the mainstream, you’ve known us for years.

To put that 12-15% number in context, that is on par with the percentage of Jews under 30 who self-identify as Orthodox (17%). If you believe, as I do, that Diaspora Jews and Israel are in a symbiotic relationship, that we need each other to survive and thrive, then Israel’s emissaries must embrace Jews of all backgrounds. Marginalizing, ignoring or denigrating Jews of color — and endorsing anti-Black racism — will only drive us further apart.

One day, my kids will go to Israel — a place they have been taught their entire lives is their ancestral home. When I’ve traveled to Israel, I have felt overwhelmed by love, hospitality and deep connection. All Jews deserve to feel the same way when they walk in their homeland. When my kids arrive in Israel, will they be called infiltrators? Will they be accused of spreading deadly diseases, and told that they do not belong in the Jewish state?

Anti-Zionism in the U.S. is like a raging fire all around us — in our communities, college campuses and places of business. American Jewish parents like me are all working to ensure our children are never cut off from their heritage, their homeland and their birthright.

It is always my first instinct to defend Israel, and I want my children to feel as deeply connected to and loved by the Jewish state as I do.  But as a mother, it is my job to love and protect my children first and foremost. The fact that someone like Golan could even be nominated to such an important position leaves my kids out in the cold. How can I ask my children to love a country that shows it doesn’t love them back?

My love for Israel is generational and unquestionable. But when you really love someone, you have to tell them when they are making a terrible mistake.

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