100 headstones were smashed at my zeide’s Jewish cemetery in Argentina

Why does it feel like no one is talking about this? Why does it feel like no one cares this time?
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The Jewish cemetery of La Tablada in Buenos Aires, Argentina, pictured in 2013. (Wikimedia Commons/Dario Alpern)

“Days before Rosh Hashanah, over 100 Jewish headstones were smashed at a Jewish Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina.”

It’s a headline that came and went without much of a reaction from the American Jewish community.

Maybe if I replaced “Buenos Aires” with “New York City” it would have gotten your attention.

I understand why it didn’t, though. 

It’s probably because to most Jewish Americans, this story is just another sad addition to the growing list of antisemitic incidents this year.

But for me, this time was different. It was a little closer to home.

Photo from the Argentinian Israelite Mutual Association shows damage to a Jewish cemetery in La Tablada, Argentina, which was vandalized on September 28, 2019. (Courtesy: AMIA)

You see, I’m an Argentinian Israeli Jew. I grew up in Canada but the majority of my family lives in Argentina.

The Tablada Cemetery, the one where the headstones were vandalized, is Argentina’s most prominent Jewish cemetery.

It’s also the cemetery where my zeide, who passed away in April of 2020, is buried. It’s where his parents were buried before him, and where the remainder of my extended family rests.

So for me, that headline felt like a ton of bricks.

We usually think of nonviolent hate crimes as faceless, less personal. It’s random graffiti in alleys or anonymous internet trolls that target all Jews, not anyone in particular.

Without question, this sort of vandalism is nothing when compared to the disturbing violent acts of antisemitism Jews have experienced across the globe.

But maybe the vandalism of a cemetery demonstrates that even in death, Jews can’t ever escape antisemitism.

Behind each number in that headline is the story of a human being. Someone’s son, daughter, mother or grandfather whose headstone was desecrated.

In this case, it was mine. Next time, God forbid, it could be one of yours.

So, I think it’s fair to say that most Jews are acutely aware that antisemitism exists and that it’s rising. We hear about it, read about it, talk about it, all the time. 

Nevertheless, we rarely have those terrifying ‘aha’ moments when you realize: ‘Hey, that could have been me.’ Or worse: ‘That is me.”

If we all allowed ourselves to be outraged at every headline that described a nonviolent antisemitic hate crime, I think we would be outraged forever. 

It’s only in the moments where headlines hit just close enough to home. Those are the moments that make you feel outraged. 

So, when I ask myself: why does it feel like no one is talking about this? Why does it feel like no one cares this time?

I realize I already know the answer.

It’s because we are tired. Because headlines like this have become far too normal. Because each one of us can only feel so much outrage at a time.

I guess that’s the point of community though, right? We all take turns getting outraged when it hits just close enough to home. Because if we don’t, who will?

Today was my turn.

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