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Dec 5, 2023


My heart keeps breaking…but I’m searching for signs of hope

My heart has broken many times since Oct 7th.  

First, from the massacre, when so many people were brutally murdered by Hamas.

It brought up memories of stories from my grandfather, George Shlain, about his family being killed in Odessa, Ukraine. I thought of my great-grandmother, Rachel Monderoff, who watched her whole family get murdered while she hid in a pickle barrel.

My heart breaks for all the hostages—and for the fact that people tore down the hostage posters.

My heart breaks for all the Palestinian families killed in the conflict. For the six-year-old boy in Illinois who was killed and three college students in Vermont who were shot last week.

My heart breaks for all the antisemitism and islamophobia that were unleashed—and for the fact that there are those who don’t value human life. 

My heart breaks for the rape of Israeli women, which was not acknowledged by UN Women and other organizations for way too long. 

Social media feels like the worst place to try to communicate any of these things. It is this hungry, divisive, toxic beast feeding us more extreme posts and polarized sides. While extremists exist in all groups, they are not the majority, but they command most of the space. I've watched and read the comments. I’ve felt the hate and anger on both sides; I keep looking for the hope. I was glued to news of hostages being released, watching their families embrace them with joy and relief and imagining the horror of their experiences.

Eighteen years ago, when Ken and I were working on the script for The Tribe, we spent months on the two lines about Israel. Those lines still express how we feel today: “Just as you can love America and not believe in all of its politics”—like when Trump was in power – “you can love Israel and not agree with all of its politics”—like Netanyahu. 

As we said in The Tribe, “For our parents' generation, Israel was clearly heroic, for today’s young Jews, it’s less clear.” And yet a Jewish homeland remains necessary. I see this terrifying  rise in antisemitism and it reminds me of more lines from The Tribe, documenting the long history of Jewish persecution. It chills my soul. It’s like my grandparents are whispering in my ear, “Look around.” Is it happening again?  Majority Leader Schumer’s speech articulated this so well.

In the midst of all this, there have been some places I have found hope. One is an organization called Standing Together created by Sally Abed, a Palestinian, and Alon-Lee Green, an Israeli. I’ve listened to their talks and read the recent NY Times article on their work, which you can find here. They remind everyone that both groups, Israelis and Palestinians, are not going anywhere and we need a new path forward. I was glad to see that two professors from Dartmouth, one from Jewish Studies and one from Middle Eastern Studies, are addressing the conflict by teaching a joint class together. I also appreciated Ezra Klein’s podcast “The Sermons I Needed to Hear Right Now with Rabbi Brous.” Micah Sifry’s posts are excellent. I loved hearing about Project Menorah, where people with Jewish friends can show their support by placing menorahs in their windows along with their other holiday decorations. Their tagline is “Only love lives here.”

As a Jewish, feminist, liberal, artist who has spent my career looking at interdependence, I hope for all the hostages to be returned, and no more innocent lives lost. I hope for peace and coexistence. Hope is all I’ve got. Coexistence is all I can imagine. What’s the alternative? 

With love and a heavy heart,

Tiffany Shlain

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