Do I know how this story ends?
February 1, 2017 7:38 AM   Subscribe

I'm a Jew in America who is the head of a very political, fairly influential, far-left leaning organization. There is a white nationalist in the White House. I feel like I know how this story ends for me and my family. Do I?

I'm in a strange position of wondering if I need to be stockpiling money and planning where to move.

Am I in danger as a Jew? Am I in danger as the head of a very political, far-left org? Am I being dramatic or paranoid? Did I hear too much about the holocaust and pograms as a kid? (No matter what, answer to that last one is probably yes).

Second set of questions is:
When would I know if it was time to leave the US?
What could I do now to prepare myself and my family just in case?
Where would I move to that would be safe and welcoming (assume I have no family or friends in other countries)?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (26 answers total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
Well just to answer your very last question: Israel, for sure.
posted by BlahLaLa at 7:44 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is, in my opinion, going to be a while before there's any sort of government organized coming-after natural born Jewish citizens. I'm not gonna play Oppression Olympics here but white-passing Jewish citizens are pretty far down the shit list in the U.S. for now considering both the necessity of an American political alliance with Israel and that if anything extremely horrible is going to happen, it will undoubtedly happen to the Muslim population first. For individual assaults on Jews (literal or metaphoric)? That's a different story, but almost entirely unpredictable, unfortunately. I sure as hell feel a lot less safe outside of NYC now but not, like, much more.

My own "when's it time to leave" is calibrated to basically any Western country (not counting Israel, obviously) opening their doors to specifically Jewish American refugees. This is how my family got out of the Soviet Union pretty much as soon as they were capable of doing so.

Something happening to Jared Kushner would also be a pretty good sign that things are about to turn bad for the Jews considering he's essentially the Jewish canary of the royal family right now.
posted by griphus at 7:51 AM on February 1, 2017 [55 favorites]

This Medium article isn't about Jewish folks specifically, but you might find parts of it interesting/instructive as far as "when to leave."

If the organization you're a part of is one that most informed Americans have heard of, I'd say that you are in relatively more danger. If not, then the risk is likely more minor. (Not asking you to tell us, just suggesting you consider this.)

I would identify countries you would go to if it comes to that (I really hope it doesn't). Israel is a good suggestion. What about Canada? Identify a couple of options and then start researching what it would take to move there. You can start moving the research/paperwork process along if things here start to look more serious.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 7:52 AM on February 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Israel is a terrible suggestion. The people currently in the White House are absolutely going to try to start a war there.
posted by dilaudid at 7:56 AM on February 1, 2017 [26 favorites]

I, too, am Up There in a far-left, very visible, very active org. Not Jewish, but queer and with a family. Our inwardly-facing chatter has been: passports all current, copies of marriage license and other paperwork related to our joint assets (especially the house), and frank talk about all this with the kids. We have extended family and close friends in the UK and a couple other countries if need be, and, yes, we've brought this up with them.

It's not paranoia, it's preparation. I don't expect to act on these things, but I am cautiously aware of the speed at which things can go from good to bad. I'm opting to look on a bright side: if things start to go down, the news of it will break far and wide very quickly. We have MeFi and other forums to sound alarms.

As an aside, we've started keeping a scrapbook. A paper-and-paste scrapbook, something tangible and portable that we can use to document why we feel this way. We want it to have as a record, something our kids can share with their kids and explain, see, this is why we're politically active. We don't want this again.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 7:58 AM on February 1, 2017 [22 favorites]

The present time never plays out exactly like the past, but this story of how Japanese interment unfolded might be instructive.

I mostly agree with griphus, though, that any large-scale actions against American Jews will likely occur after large-scale actions against American Muslims. So, that will be a strong warning. In the mean time, your big concern will be individual hate crimes by newly-emboldened neo-Nazis (which is not something you'll be able to escape in most English-speaking countries) rather than government activity.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:14 AM on February 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

Agree with griphus. The "good" thing is, Jews are fairly low down on the current government's hit list. Right now I think the biggest threat to US Jews is "lone wolf" attacks by white nationalists on Jewish schools and institutions, and synagogues. If anything, the best thing Jews can do as a somewhat-more-safe group is to shout louder in defense of the more vulnerable - IMO Muslims, recent immigrants (especially non-white ones), the LGB(and especially)T community. If Muslim citizens start disappearing, or there's any sort of mass Kristallnacht-type assault on their community (as opposed to one isolated incident - if it becomes something no one cares about or in any way common), I might start looking into making sure our money is liquid enough and start thinking where we might want to go and learning what the visa requirements are. But I'd still stay so long as the government press releases weren't blaming Jews for the economy or other problems. I'm pretty sure if it ever got to that stage for Jews, we'll know. The first laws against the Jews in the late 1920's and early 1930's in Germany were a clear othering of a people -- it started with things like kicking people out of jobs in the media and universities. We know that once it gets to that stage without pushback, it can only get worse. But for now, we're really really needed as part of that pushback on behalf of others.

As a head of a prominent left-leaning institution, you may have more to worry about - not as far as physical danger, but I think a federal directive against institutions is far more likely than one against people. If you have important documents, I'd make sure you have a mirror site (if they're online) or a way to get hard file copies out, now. Canada and the UK are still stable and speak English.

I have no idea where to suggest is 100% safe to go. My usual go-to response is Australia (English speaking, not too much anti-semitism, not too geopolitically important), but if there's a war with China, all bets are off. Mexico has a thriving Jewish community and I don't think is in any military danger. In general anti-semitism in Western Europe is mostly polite right now, especially if you're wholly secular. If you're at all religious then not so much, though the UK still seems to have less outright violence. Buenos Aires also has a large community who seem mostly happy there, though the murder of Alberto Nisman has been giving a lot of people pause. Israel will take you, and has extensive programs in place to help with relocation, but it's only as safe as Israel ever is.

You don't mention where you live, but if you're in a sanctuary city like NYC or LA, you'll also be far more likely to be insulated from any amount of real danger for long enough to see it coming. The cities are already fighting back, even destroying records that can make vulnerable communities more vulnerable. If you're in a red state, I'd think about relocating to a blue city, if you're not in one already. For now, I still think the US is still the best place to be. The people in charge may be crazy and scary, but they're not popular. I think that will make a difference.
posted by Mchelly at 8:56 AM on February 1, 2017 [9 favorites]

First, here is an opinion by Scott Greenfield, a defense attorney, who is a lot closer to the bad behavior of the government than I.

My own opinion is that you are in greater danger from a lone wolf, or an actual terrorist, than from the government. My expectation is that the stream of Executive Orders will last maybe another three weeks. After that, the spotlight will move to wrangles between the the White House and the Congress, especially the House of Representatives, with the democrats in the Senate supplying the Greek chorus.
posted by SemiSalt at 9:18 AM on February 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I remember asking a similar question to a Black friend during the Bush administration--not so much about the Jews but I was thinking about Germany in the 30s and of those who got out early. "How do I know when it's time to leave?", I asked Her response, "It's already too late."

She was half joking, but she also had a different perspective. In this respect, I disagree with griphus about Jared Kushner. He's safer than we are. The Muslim ban, for example, didn't apply to the Saudis. It's really about poor Muslims. Henry Kissinger bonded with Nixon over their shared antisemitism. Nixon knew Henry was one of the good ones.

I agree with Van Jones that Trump is less of a racist and more of a racial opportunist. Considering the level of opposition to his Muslim ban which can be framed as a terrorist ban, he would have no easy cover story to turn on the Jews at this point. There may be a time when it becomes viable for him but I don't see it happening any time soon. I agree with SemiSalt above that the more immediate danger is from a lone wolf emboldened by the Trump atmosphere.
posted by Obscure Reference at 9:23 AM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Not Jewish but Queer as a three dollar bill. Frankly, I'm scared to death. Is it only a matter of time till the shit hits the fan? They already started on the Muslims. Who will the christian terrorists go after next?

Israel is a bad idea as dilaudid said. They are going to start a war over there because it's in the bloody bible or something. I'd go to either Ireland or Germany if I could, but I can't. I'm stuck here and I will work to undermine these awful bastards any way I can.
posted by james33 at 9:38 AM on February 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

I found this preparation list to be interesting. It goes in assuming the worst in some respects, but it covers a lot of things it wouldn't have occurred to me to think about, including not just plans for leaving, but for protecting things like your data and your job. There are other similar lists linked in the comments, as well.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:39 AM on February 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I am shocked at the sanguine attitude of some of these answers. Just because Jewish people may be further down the list of targets for state persecution doesn’t mean hate crimes aren’t way up, and those alone might reach a level where your family would consider leaving. So, I would focus on your security against lone wolf/neighborhood group/cyber crimes. Our (queer activist, non-Jewish) family has been focusing on this kind of safety, and I feel much more prepared for the future.

Look at resources about doxxing, and make sure your personal information (and your spouse’s) is as obscured as possible online. Particularly, is your home address visible anywhere? Is it obvious which school your children attend? I recently went through all my askmefi/mefi comments looking for identifying information and personal details. How complete a picture of your habits and vulnerabilities is available to a dedicated doxxer?
Is your home wifi secure? If your family owns gaming systems, or you enjoy Internet of Things objects, are they secure?

At work, if your organization’s website might be targeted by right-wing hackers (we’re seeing more of this) do you have your information stored safely elsewhere? Are there any access points from the website to your internal network that might put the staff’s personal information at risk? Depending how profuse images of you are on the internet, it might be worth removing any staff profile pictures from your organization’s website.

Bomb threats against JCCs are up, and we’re all more vulnerable to terrorist threats in cities now. If you’re generally more relaxed parents, have you talked to the kids about how in some circumstances, they must obey your orders immediately and without pushback? Do you have a code word for that?

I’d suggest keeping in touch with your most, dunno how to put this appropriately, “visible” local Jewish community, which might be Orthodox, even if you’re Reform or not practicing. Maybe follow some leaders on Twitter or get their email newsletter. That might give you a heads-up on any local issues with hate crimes. If you can stomach it, having visual familiarity with white supremacist/antisemitic organizations' logos and dogwhistles is something that is helping me quickly spot the nazi signal among the noise of a twitter feud or a crowd.

I agree with the suggestions thus far about how to know when to *leave*. We have a list of items we’d take in an evacuation to another city or an evacuation overseas, so we could move quickly if the time came. I hope with all my heart that all of this preparation gives your family a greater sense of security, and you never have to take more serious measures.
posted by pickingupsticks at 9:55 AM on February 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

How safe would Israel really be in a world where going there is your best option?
posted by amtho at 9:56 AM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

If Trump and the GOP is so friendly with Israel, why go there and not stay here?
No need to split. Stay and fight. There are many in the Left and even some on the Right who will fight Trump. There are Jews now supporting the GOP and Trump. And then Trump's daughter now married to Orthodox Jew and she has converted...Some big backers of the GOP (Trump) are Jewish. Right now, it is Muslims that are perhaps in danger; then followed by illegals; then of course and par for the Right: people of color.
So stay. Fight. This is not Germany in 1930's when a vast majority of the nation blamed economic woes on the Jews. Recall: 3 million people here voted Against Trump. Those people now must make opposition vocal as often as possible.
ps: I am old Jew, 87; my son came back to live and work here after living in Israel for 6 years.
posted by Postroad at 10:04 AM on February 1, 2017 [30 favorites]

Postroad, I think I agree with you based on the little information available, but with one caveat: I don't think the nominal executive or party leaders are the real problem that needs addressing. There is a lot to do, but focusing exclusively on a top-down view might not be the best strategy.
posted by amtho at 10:14 AM on February 1, 2017

I’d suggest keeping in touch with your most, dunno how to put this appropriately, “visible” local Jewish community, which might be Orthodox, even if you’re Reform or not practicing.

Speaking from personal experience, if you decide to do this, prepare for a whole lot of them to be both vocally in support of Trump and extremely hostile to any linking of anti-Semitism to the Trump administration.
posted by griphus at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

I also question whether Israel is a safe and welcoming place for left leaning American Jews (and my wife and I have had this exact discussion about where we can go if we have to get out of the US).

Even if Bibi gets taken down by the current scandal, I doubt that Israeli politics will get more centrist. At first glance, I was pleasantly surprised that the Israeli gov't started to evict the settlers from Amona, but I doubt that it is more than a one time thing, so I don't have much hope for peace with the Palestinians. And although I don't know all the details, I did read that its likely that the Israeli religious authorities don't consider the rabbi who did Ivanka's conversion to be kosher, so she and her kids may not be Jewish by Israeli religious standards. I don't even know what to make of that, other than to acknowledge that on some level being a Jew in the USA is not the same as being a Jew in Israel.

I'm sure there are plenty of counter arguments and hopefully some Israelis will set me straight.
posted by jindc at 12:23 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think they are more likely to go after you for your political work first. And they have the FBI for that. I don't know how to tell you to prepare, except maybe to read up on the history of how they've behaved in the past (civil rights era) and what new tactics they've employed more recently (against Occupy), as well as -- and I hate that I'm going to use this phrase -- whatever PsyOps research you can get your hands on.

I have to believe these dumbfucks are as ruthless and evil as any of their spiritual ancestors, but hopefully they're not as skilled or efficient as, say, the Stasi.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:18 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Like it suddenly you're being audited and everything's going wrong at work AND the police keep showing up AND whatever else, then...I mean we're all pretty screwed at that point, but politically active opposition leaders will feel it first. Find a group of peers, share notes. (Hope no one had infiltrated...)

I know that sounds bananas paranoid, but like...they do this stuff. There are well documented procedures for demoralizing and gaslighting political opposition into insanity and ineffectiveness.

TBH I'm a writer, and I've been making myself crazy with all the stuff I can think up for them to do using modern tech. We're not there yet, but I think if the administration puts together its own enforcement agencies and purges the others, we'll be there soon.
posted by schadenfrau at 1:22 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Your concern is understandable. Everything is very unpredictable these days, and as others above, what I worry about is mostly the administration's pandering to and riling up the rampant anti-semitism of their base, not that they instigate persecution of Jews.

When should you go? When you don't feel comfortable. Don't tell yourself you can wait it out. All the stories from my family are that everyone knew it was terrible from 1933 onwards, but that too many thought it would pass and normalcy return. And then of course it became more and more difficult to get out. So go earlier rather than later.

Personally, I would not move to Israel. It is a dangerous place and there is no end in sight to the dangerous far right politics there. Also, there are so many other people and countries who want to create havoc in Israel, for so many different reasons. That said, there is a vibrant culture, including political culture in Israel, and you will find new friends easily.

I'd look at Canada and New Zealand. Both are English-speaking open societies with really nice people in them.

It would be nice to be able to say that there are good options in Europe, but I can't think of a single European country that would be welcoming and open right now (actually Spain and Portugal are cool, but no jobs there)
posted by mumimor at 1:27 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is there any way to tell when a situation has gone affirmatively south? It would be silly to be the first to abandon ship (without special knowledge), but waiting too long is disaterous. Oddly, there is a strategy even when you know nothing.

It is: bail when 1/e (=about 38%) of the affected population has bailed. I found this reference, framed as 'choosing the best wife from a sequence of dates' when you can not re-ask a rejected candidate. I believe it is a decent model for 'when should I bail'.

The thing is, stuff messes up much faster than you believe. As we sit around waiting for the first Reichstag moment (the 'emergency' that requires big rule changes), we should already be prepared. And 38% is the number for a benign environment--a dedicated opponent would make this number much lower.
posted by hexatron at 3:00 PM on February 1, 2017

When would I know if it was time to leave the US?

I'm Jewish and work at a Jewish non-profit, and do organizing with liberal/radical Jewish groups.
I'm also gay and do organizing with radical queer groups.

I've done lots of civil disobedience before, and been arrested once, and I plan on doing more civil disobedience (and almost certainly getting arrested again) to fight against Trump.

I have lots of friends talking about under what conditions they might leave. My personal answer is never. Even as a queer Jew, I know there are lots of people who will certainly have it worse than me under Trump. And part of my commitment to social justice, as a Jew, means staying here and fighting. Fighting against Trump, and fighting to help others who are being persecuted.

I was at the airport protest at JFK, and I recognize that as a (white) Jew in America, I can use my body and my presence to maybe make things a little safer for Arabs or Muslims in the United States. My ability to make a difference in that way outweighs my concerns about my personal safety. I understand that other people might make different decisions, these are just my thoughts about how I would make the decisions about knowing when it is time to leave the US.
posted by andoatnp at 3:46 PM on February 1, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm not leaving, but I did go ahead and pursue that dual citizenship I'm eligible for but never pursued before. I'm a US citizen who is now the proud owner of a new British passport. If one of your parents was born in another country, you may be eligible for something similar. Grandparents I believe work too if they happened to have fled Germany during the holocaust. Restored Citizenship....

I don't think anyone can answer your question. But we can all prepare.
posted by latkes at 7:39 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm not an expert on this, but I'd look for which countries would take me and where I would qualify to go if I could. Qualifying is a complicated issue. Then figure out which of those countries you could live in.
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:50 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Given your political work, I think you're at very high risk of someone hacking into your email, planting illegal files on your computer, or SWATing you. I'd make sure your personal electronic security is top notch.
posted by miyabo at 10:03 PM on February 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

It is: bail when 1/e (=about 38%) of the affected population has bailed. I found this reference, framed as 'choosing the best wife from a sequence of dates' when you can not re-ask a rejected candidate. I believe it is a decent model for 'when should I bail'.

Doesn't work for % of emigration. This would be a good model if countries were taking turns offering asylum and you wanted to emigrate to the best available country and didn't know if the, say, top 5 countries were ever going to offer.
posted by michaelh at 10:47 PM on February 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

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