Finding Peace in a Both and Situation

Judith Cabelli
3 min readMay 19, 2024
Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

My 13-year-old daughter landed in Israel during a deeply complex time both in Israel and the United States. Parental emotions around her traveling 6,000 miles from home on a school trip were always going to be complicated. Add in a war torn country and civil unrest, I’m not sure how I smiled the first 24 hours.

Yet, as soon as I saw the first group photo in the Tel Aviv airport, a deep recognition settled within. For ten days, my daughter had the opportunity to experience inner peace, while our world was far from external peace.

I’m often struck that the generational trauma of the Jewish people is somehow simultaneously misunderstood and overlooked. Many of us living today have grandparents who survived the horrors of the Holocaust. Our great grandparents immigrated to this country to escape the atrocities of the pogroms. Our friends are former Soviet Jews who immigrated in the 1970s or 1980s, including some as recently as 1995. Our friends from Iran immigrated in the late 1970s and early 1980s, often with harrowing stories of escape with only the belongings they sewed into the clothing worn on their person.

We live daily with this trauma.

The history of the Jewish people around the world is froth with tales of persecution. Political parties and religious groups desiring to eradicate the entire Jewish people. We were expelled from Spain, Hungary, Switzerland, Iran, Egypt, France — plus a much longer list over the centuries. This is our history and this is our current reality. It is a trauma we grow up with that is interwoven through many holidays we “celebrate” as a people.

The Israelites’ liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt after 40 days and 40 nights in the desert to escape Pharoah: Passover!

The salvation of the Jewish people from Haman’s plot to annihilate us in the ancient Persian Empire: Purim!

The Maccabees’ revolt against King Antiochos who destroyed the temple led to the recapture of the temple and finding enough oil that miraculously lasted eight days: Hanukkah!

We have parents who remember living in the Jewish neighborhoods of big cities like New York and Chicago. Neighborhoods that later turned over to other persecuted groups. Our parents are first generation American. First generation college students. First generation to assimilate.

We have core memories from first grade explaining why at six we are the only student of 30 who can’t eat green eggs and ham to go with the Dr. Seuss story or why the foam and sequin ornament from the class “holiday” party would not go on a Christmas tree at home.

We grow up knowing we are an “other” in this great mixing bowl of ours.

“Othering” is not a uniquely Jewish experience. What is unique is that in the United States, the Jewish community is predominantly a white community. With that whiteness also comes enormous privilege. Along with that privilege comes the ability to masquerade or choose whether to disclose one’s religious background. Perhaps it is this ability to assimilate and hide one’s identity that makes the identity of the white Jew even more complicated and personal. The understanding of our individual and collective identity with Israel complex.

Seeing my daughter’s smile alight in each photo during her travels is the epitome of what Israel means to me as a Jew. Israel is our home. The one place we can exist and be known, seen and understood by our fellow Jews. It is our refuge from persecution flowing within our blood long before we were born. The intergenerational trauma that informs our decision making and our very survival as a people.

To say I was nervous and uncomfortable sending my daughter on this Israel trip would be an understatement. Yet, I’ve learned parenting often requires a “both and” response. I could be apprehensive and know this would be transformative. I knew it was worth putting my anxiety aside for my daughter to have this experience with her friends. The temporary reprieve from a world in which nuance of historic context and today’s reality is so often forgotten, conflated and misunderstood that ironically, I had to send my daughter to a country at war for her to temporarily know peace.

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Judith Cabelli

A passionate leader committed to housing affordability, social justice and racial equity.