When I was four years old, my family immigrated to America from the USSR. I was born in Kaunas, Lithuania to Jewish parents who filled my childhood with vivid stories of horrendous anti-Semitism and raised me to be an unapologetic Zionist. To me, Judaism went hand in hand with a love and respect for the State of Israel, an essential insurance policy for the Jewish people.
Fast-forward approximately three decades; I run the social media sites under the name “Jewish Chick” (Instagram, Facebook) and often have action alerts/campaigns to help combat anti-Semitism I encounter online.
My latest call to action involved Miu Miu, the sister brand of Prada, removing items from their Fall/Winter 2017 collection that contained clothing with a yellow star with the name “John” affixed to the front of dresses and shirts, very similar to the ones Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust. You can read more about the incident here. Although I was pleased with the famous fashion house’s swift action and sincere apology, I was dumbfounded how something like this happened in 2017.
Low and behold, I wake up the next morning and see Billy Joel plastered all over social media performing at Madison Square Garden the night prior wearing a yellow star with six points on the front and back of his suit. I roll my eyes and try not to think about it but can’t navigate online without the images being plastered everywhere. The majority of people, specifically Jews I noticed, were commending him for standing up for the rise in anti-Semitism we’ve been seeing. Again, I roll my eyes (I had no idea that Billy Joel was even Jewish) and continue with life.
Approximately a week later, Nev Schulman, actor and creator of MTV’s hit show ‘Catfish’, showed up at the MTV music awards wearing what else but a suit with a six pointed yellow star affixed to the front of his suit.
I was flabbergasted, outraged, and honestly puzzled. Why were two Jews proudly promoting a symbol that was used to oppress Jews during the Holocaust into the spotlight? And why was it ok that they adorn them but it wasn’t ok for a fashion house to use?
A yellow star made of cloth and pinned to the front of clothing brings to mind the mass murder of 6 million Jews. It is a symbol forever associated with one of the darkest and most evil periods in humanity. For myself, and many others, it represents a slap in the face for those that perished during and survived the Holocaust, no matter the intent. If a Jew wants to show his pride, there are many way other ways to do it (wearing a yarmulke, Star of David necklace, hanging mezuzah, etc).
And perhaps the next time a Jewish rock star takes the stage at a major arena, they can instead waive the Israeli flag with the same level of enthusiasm as we see them wearing the yellow star.