Confession: Prior to preparing to write this article, I didn’t know Mayim Bialik’s politics. Given that she grew up in Hollywood, I would have assumed them to be fairly liberal, if not progressive, had I been asked to guess. And, apparently, I would have been correct.
The former “Blossom” and “Big Bang Theory” actress shared a video to her Instagram account on Friday expressing her devastation over the brutal Hamas attack on Israel on October 7 and the rising tide of antisemitism in its wake.
The video runs about 10 minutes, so I won’t transcribe it in its entirety, but her key points are below:
“I have heard from many people my whole life that antisemitism is growing, that the Holocaust — while we say we will never forget — many have forgotten. And the swiftness with which the global population has seized upon the massacre of Jewish civilians living inside of a border — the swiftness with which the world has stepped up to redefine terrorism, to redefine statehood, to redefine the right of a people to exist — nothing has prepared me, or any of us, for this.
“I think that many of us are now seeing that there are certain people for whom it does not matter if you are left-wing or right-wing. It does not matter if you support the right of Israel to exist or if you’ve never been there. It doesn’t matter if you look Jewish or if you don’t. It doesn’t matter if your family is from Eastern Europe or if they are from Northern Africa. It doesn’t matter because it is clear — we get it — it is clear that there is a strain of antisemitism that is alive and well. It is thriving at my alma mater, where the chant ‘We want a Jewish genocide’ was echoed in the quad in front of Royce Hall. The place where I took my doctoral hood had students of all backgrounds chanting for a Jewish genocide.
“This is not acceptable. It’s not normal. We should not normalize it. There is no excuse for calling for a genocide of an entire people. Period. Full stop.
“I have an 18-year-old who is preparing to go to college next year. Many of the colleges on his list, and the lists of all of his friends, are for universities that cannot find a way to unanimously, undeniably, irrevocably denounce any organization that celebrates the massacre of Jewish people. Many universities cannot figure out how to unequivocally state that organizations that incite violence and hatred by calling for an end to the Jewish people are not welcome to receive funding from the government of that university. This is astounding.
“Homes very close to mine are being threatened because of mezuzahs on the door. Jewish stars are being painted on Jewish homes all over the world. Is this the moment that anti-Zionists have been waiting for? The moment when the entire world bands against the Jewish people? I’m no longer afraid to draw comparisons to the global attempt at an elimination of the Jewish people, which my grandparents escaped Eastern Europe to flee.
“I’m grateful to those who have been able to see clearly, and I’m very disappointed. I’m disappointed in many institutions I have always held sacred. And the lack of humanity is devastating. The notion that this is a comeuppance for the Jewish people — ‘That’s what you get. What did you think decolonization would look like?’ I did not think it looked like decapitated babies and disemboweled humans and raped women being paraded around the streets while thousands cheer. And I didn’t think it looked like tens of thousands of people marching in solidarity with the actions of a terrorist organization whose sole purpose is to eliminate not the Jewish state but the Jewish people.
“My family in Israel has commented that they feel insulated in Israel in a way that they see we are not in America. It’s true. I’ve always believed that Israel was my homeland. And now I understand it more deeply than ever before. I am a stranger in a strange land here. And it took October 7th for so many of us to see that.
“I’m scared to send my child to school events right now. I’m scared to think about what he will meet when he goes to college. I’m scared that he has to think twice before writing an essay about how significant it is to be a liberal Jew in America. And all the things that we have fought for — for the dignity of other groups, for self-determination, for the right to live — ‘am chofshi be’artzenu‘ — a free nation in our own land.
“I won’t apologize for expressing what I’m going through, what so many of us are going through. We are looking for moments of joy. I’m looking for distraction. But it feels like a nightmare that we cannot wake up from right now.
“For those of you who support the Jewish people, for those of you who support decency and compassion and love and the hope of peace, thank you. Thank you.”
I discovered Bialik’s video after seeing a response posted by Dr. Sheila Nazarian, blasting Bialik for her (previous) naïveté regarding the state of the world and the looming threat of antisemitism. Nazarian, an Iranian-American Jew whose own family escaped from Iran following the revolution in 1979, is a Beverly Hills plastic surgeon, best known as the host of a Netflix reality series and for guest stints on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” and “Basketball Wives.”
I have no idea if Nazarian and Bialik have ever crossed paths, though they both reside in the Los Angeles area and obviously have Hollywood/celebrity ties. What struck me about Nazarian’s response was that it beautifully (if hauntingly) encapsulates the harsh reality of a world in tumult, one in which there’s a heightened degree of danger, particularly for Jews. Her words rebuke Bialik, yet there is shared pain and sorrowful understanding.
My reaction to Mayim Bialik's video… who I really respect and like, BTW. Just my raw thoughts… pic.twitter.com/6nmhMuidzv— Dr. Sheila Nazarian (@DoctorNazarian) October 30, 2023
“I just finished watching Mayim Bialik’s recent post about how she sees things, and it took October 7th for her to see things. And…I’m just so…I don’t know…I don’t understand why it has taken so long for people to see what a lot of us have been screaming for the last four years, especially — and I hate to say it — especially the progressive Jews in America.
“You thought marching with these leftist organizations meant that you were one of them and that they supported you. You failed to read the charter of Black Lives Matter, that had antisemitism written in it from the beginning. You failed to notice the antisemitism at the Women’s Marches by Linda Sarsour on stage — one of the people on the board of the Women’s March.
“You failed to listen — you failed to see. And what? Now you see? Now you’re awake? You’re disappointed in the world? I’m disappointed in you. I’m disappointed that it had to take a massacre of the Jewish people for your eyes to be opened.
“A lot of us that escaped socialist countries have been smelling the same smells here in America for years, and we’ve been trying to tell you. Why didn’t you listen? ‘Oh, they’re just conservative voices, they’re weird, (they) don’t make sense, they’re this, they’re that, they’re conspiracy theorists.’
“I want you to ask yourself why it took a massacre of our people for you to listen. Maybe it’s time you listened to voices again that are different than your own, just like we listen to you. Do not discount the voices of people who have a different life experience than you and who — yes — might know more than you. Growing up in your ‘privileged’ — using your own word — in your privileged, American, safe spaces, never actually having experienced war yourselves, never having actually experienced antisemitism yourselves, and just turning a blind eye to what exists in so many places in the world. Because what? You wanted to fit in? Because what? You thought it made you a good person — it felt good?
“You need to wake up. You need to call out antisemitism. You need to call out Islamic extremism. For those of us that have lived in Iran, or places like Iran, and have actually suffered under these extremist ideologies — you cannot fix a problem if you don’t make the correct diagnosis. We must make the correct diagnosis. We must listen to each other. We must be united. So I’m sorry that you’re just waking up. I’m sorry that you’re devastated. I’m sorry that you’re disappointed. We’ve been feeling that way for years. Welcome to the club.”
Bialik appears to be undergoing a rude (and heartbreaking) awakening. I understand the desire to seek peace and to hope for the best — I share in it, even. Yet Nazarian’s response serves as a poignant reminder not to be so quickly dismissive of those who warn of evil’s swift approach, notwithstanding those sentiments.