Dear Antisemite; a poem for Holocaust Memorial Day

The poem below is the first of a collection it has taken me a long time to share. I’ve not been sharing my work broadly for a while, both for health reasons and the sense of being silenced. Enough said on that one. This Holocaust Memorial Day I am sharing this. It is actually being used as a piece of testimony for a project at the National Holocaust Memorial Centre (UK) in the next few days. A project co-organised by the local Labour Women group, with a friend of mine in her usual organise and make the world better mode. She is good at it.

The next few days will have a brief flurry of Jewish and Tree of Life themes, (a different collection),because tomorrow is Tu B’ Shevat, our celebration of the birthday of trees and the Tree of All Life. It connects us all, no matter culture, creed or even species, in oneness and diversity. Tomorrow, as a story weaver, I am co-hosting a creative sharing, and some of my own work, art, stories and poems, will be added to this blog. For me, celebrating trees, is honouring the light, hope and new beginnings after the dark that is remembered today.

But first, this poem, angry, honest and important for me that I share. Thank you to all who read it. Take care and stay safe x

Dear anti-Semite,

no, dear everyone

from left and right,

let’s talk one to one,

I don’t speak to admonish

or drive us into confrontation;

all humans have prejudice

until we build some recognition,

antisemitism is a daily decision,

word by word to be abolished

or each phrase implants new division,

there’s an ageless fight for a Jewish

right to be ourselves, it is a mission;

what’s levelled at us would astonish,

here’s how we are misjudged, please listen

to some ways we’re admonished;

we’re way too religious

or we forgot to convert;

called godless drifters

or revolting perverts,

blood suckers, baby killers,

frigid, backward, uptight, absurd,

I have been left out in the cold,

I’ve had shit thrown at my window,

told to ‘shut up’ and ‘go home,’

had a knife held to my throat,

I’ve felt unsafe at protests

by banners waved, things said,

and then been judged for my absence,

as others assume my disinterest,

as if my life’s work was mere pretence,

I’m blamed for distant conquests,

for slavery, wars and unrest,

I have been silenced,

and I am exhausted,

my identity policed;

this is asserted about us;

we’re the virus that persists;

or we made it,

all capitalists, all communists,

itinerants, industrialists,

scrooge or rag and bone,

the people who just moan,

the peddler, the meddler,

the ones who hide away

or are everywhere you look;

running the world or the USA,

or nerds always lost in a book;

brashly getting in your way

or lurking behind every nook,

we disguise ourselves to get away,

feigning, ‘til we’re mistook

for humans worthy of equality;

we’re inconsequential;

how we eat is thought weird,

our cooking said to be immoral,

our food supplies are damaged,

friends asked “what’s with the beard?”

as they’re attacked in rage,

hits, slurs and cat calls,

and yet we each gage

ourselves thankful

they were able to evade

a fate far more awful

like those stabbed with blades

or shot at shul,

private security engaged

when local and national

law-enforcers dis-engage,

our attackers less criminal;

it must be the way Jews behave;

we’re thought to be know-it-alls,

so our logic is ignored

by those envious or bored,


we’re thought to lack potential

yet still be the ones who steer 

the globe to its downfall,

we’re homophobic or ‘too queer’,

we’re the ‘metropolitan liberal

elite’ to right-leaning haters

and, with irony you’d think incredible

the left label us all right-wingers,

as I write I swallow bile,

how has this followed us for years?

how can people be this gullible?

whatever we do, we’re the sinners,

any small impact is feared,

yet we’re not considered real;

our end should be near,

yet we aren’t a people?

it’s blisteringly clear

we could not exist at all;

we’d completely disappear

if we fit the tropes in full,

these tropes get fresh make-overs

but are as old as temples’ fall,

yet few choose to see or hear,

we’re treated as if we don’t feel;

as we’re degraded and jeered,

I’m tired of feeling this small;

this is how hate is engineered;

keep ranting about George Soros,

when we complain, laugh,

blame everything on the Rothchilds;

blame everything on Karl Marx;

it is neither harmless nor mild,

scapegoating us for fun

or from ignorance defiles,

derails vital discussions,

leads to bodies bundled into carts,

or to exclusion, misinformation,

discrimination, murder or exile,

blaming all on one people or nation

is thick, self-defeatist, vile

and boringly, routinely common

across social and political spectrums,

false allegations assault our ears

with media lies, lies at the lectern,

yet there are those not dealing in fear

who preach love in their turn, 

but some lies, for generations burn;

Rome killing Jesus

was antisemitic too,

then Rome blamed us

for all those they slew –

whenever there’s a fuss

leaders often blame ‘the Jew’,

Muslims or people of colour,

its divide and rule, nothing new;

an old game of blame the ‘other’

to let oppressive laws pass through,

or else they use our pain as cover,

pointing fingers as some leaders do,

playing interested observer

as a smokescreen for a complex truth,

they seek ever to blur

their own antisemitic and bigoted spiel,

their taunts often serve

to conceal their own crimes, and to peel

us, as if separating a herd,

to pick us off more easily for their next meal,

and so Jews like me are left to feel

between furnace and fire,

propelled into the liminal

to fuel others’ privilege and desire,

and so many live walking the tightrope or beam,

swallowing the light of our letters

until that light tastes of soot, or we turn mean,

like all people, we have egotistical takers;

some Jews have views that are obscene, 

yet we’re drawn as the source of all hatred

as if no other humans could despise or demean,

we’re blamed for phobias inflicted on people

with ancient text taken out of context

until even we wonder if we’re evil,

our texts appropriated without respect,

used, abused, mistranslated to label

until the love inside even we forget,


a Jewish value is that all are valued equal;

dignity, life, peace deserved by everyone,

do we each always keep those values? no,

but do each of you? does anyone?

those who hate us miss this truth,

hypocrisy taints everyone,

I am no more or less responsible

just because I’m Jewish,

I won’t be pigeon-holed to take the fall;

malice is not Ladino or Yiddish,

as a white westerner, some flak I’ll take

for the wounds and scars of imperialism,

for the countries exploited for greed’s sake,

yet to lay guilt at one door is surrealism,

and to blame the Jews shuts down debate

that could dig at the real roots of racism,

I plead, much hope for peace at stake,

do not sell bitter ire as idealism,

traumas triggered, as I write, I shake,

I’ve tried talking about the bomb

used on the synagogue in my home town

a few short years ago,

did you hear about it? I doubt so;

few want to hear or see

the rising echoes of not so long ago,

they share in the complicity

shielding those who deface grave stones

with conspiracies in graffiti,

smashing the glass of windows

just like the Nazis,

attacking businesses and homes,

we, alienated in our cities,

kettled in, cordoned off, alone,

told we’re just seeking pity

when we speak of such disunion,

I was once answered that I was ‘sitting pretty’ –

ire denies shared responsibility,

hate isn’t Jewish, Pagan, Christian, Muslim;

contest all targeted mass culpability,

ask how all genocides begin,

value difference; seed diversity,

to be judged on faith, culture, colour skin,

nation of origin, gender, sexuality

or ability is every kind of stupid wrong,

yet antisemitism is often seen as fine,

it’s time to learn to sing a different song,

to know such prejudice crosses the line,

if you loath us cos you think we’re rich,

if you loath us cos you think we’re poor,

your logic has many an ill-fated glitch

please use your brain for what it’s for,

in myriad ways, we’re made to justify our lives

every day, like pushing stones through a sieve,

we’re forced to over-compromise,

giving up culture, custom or belief

bit by bit, so we won’t be despised,

this is inclusion’s antithesis,

our identity by others is revised,

parts of me have died, I am in grief,

constantly quizzed about the way we live,

after countless replies, I may snap at a jibe,

only to hear “you people are so sensitive”;

wrong to take offence at unyielding “whys?”

or attempts to convert us to mainstream ways,

to appear the same or to be ostracised,

being Jew but not too Jew seemingly seen as OK,

we do not choose to be side-lined;

Jews are not to blame for our rejection;

please don’t now moan you’re not antisemitic,

and blame our neurosis to avoid self- reflection;

try instead to be aware, and empathetic,

practice listening, and inner-introspection,

to use denial and projection is being pathetic;

guilty of duplicity, prejudice and self-deception,

please do not be one of them, be the shift

that helps the rising tide to turn.

Antonia Sara Zenkevitch

The image below shows a floating candle in the dark

Photo by Being.the.traveller on