This piece was originally featured on the UD Hillel blog.
Every time I told someone that I was going to be studying abroad in Paris, they always made sure to tell me to be careful because “they hate Jews over there.”
I honestly took what they said with a grain of salt because all of my friends at home are Jewish, my family is Jewish, everyone I know is Jewish, I grew up in a Jewish town, so how could I possibly need to be careful because of my religion? Everyone told me not to wear my Hamsa or Jewish star necklace, never to say any words in Hebrew, never to tell anyone I was Jewish, and to speak quietly if I was speaking about my religion or Israel in a public space. So, I listened, no Jewish jewelry for me and no speaking about my religion out loud here. Sure, I went to the Jewish quarter to get Falafel and the Jewish museum, but it was definitely a little rushed. People always tell me I don’t look Jewish, and I never really appreciated that until right now.
On Wednesday, January 7th, my trip was visiting the Pablo Picasso museum, which is located in the 3rd district, very close to the Jewish quarter. Little did we know, literally 5 blocks away, a terrorist attack was taking place. When we entered the lobby of the museum after our visit and had precious Wifi, we learned of the horrific attack that had just taken place literally steps from where we were. My immediate reaction was the Jews are next. It disgusts me that this is the world that I live in, that my first thought after this event was that my people were going to be attacked next. When we were ready to leave the museum and knew that it was safe, we traveled as a group home and just hung low the rest of the day. What happened that day was horrific, but was about to come was even worse. Thursday went on as a regular day.
Friday morning I woke up nauseous. I decided to suck it up and go with my group to the two exhibits we had planned on our itinerary that day. One museum was Sonia Delaunay, who ironically happens to be a Jewish artist, the next was at Palais de Tokyo. This was one of the most intense exhibits that I have ever seen. The exhibits are literally designed to break you, change your way of thinking, they take you on a very intense journey that is hard to describe. During that exhibit, we learned of the hostage situation at the Kosher grocery store. We were in dark, scary exhibits, and this was what I was reading on my phone. I cannot even describe the emotions I felt at that time. I was extremely uncomfortable in this exhibit and at the same time I was watching my fears come true on the news from my phone. I quickly left the exhibit and my roommate and I got home as quickly as possible. I then learned how many people died and how the two hostage situations unfolded. I was literally sick, I was so scared, worried, and upset that I was throwing up the rest of the day.
I knew when the attack happened on Wednesday, that the Jews would be attacked next, if something were to continue. I felt it in my gut. It is the scary pattern of the world that we live in. Attack the Jews, blame the Jews. It is a shame that when I was getting ready for my trip that people told me to hide my Jewish identity. I wish more then ever that I could wear Hebrew letters on my shirt and Jewish stars around my neck, but unfortunately, it is not safe for me to do that in Paris right now. I am having a hard time trying to fully enjoy myself and immerse myself in this culture, when I have to hide a huge part of who I am. I do not feel any threats or unsafe as a person right now, but I do feel unsafe being Jewish here, and that is something I never want to feel again. At the same time, it has been amazing seeing the world on social media with the hashtag, #jesuisjuif or I am Jewish.
These people may not even be Jewish but they are showing their support for the innocent lives that have been taken. That gives me hope that maybe one day we won’t live in a world where my next thought is, I wonder if the Jews will be attacked next. Nonetheless, I am extremely proud of who I am and my Jewish heritage, and I would not change it for the world, even if it means I have to be a little uncomfortable for the next few weeks.
Jessica Davis is a senior at the University of Delaware, majoring in Human Services with minors in Jewish Studies and Business Administration. Jess is from Livingston, NJ and was a past co-president of Challah for Hunger at UD Hillel. She also served on the executive board of her sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, and is the current Faculty Chair for UDance.