Photo Credit: Katie King
YULA Girls High School

Author Laura Silverman on Jewish heritage and fighting anti-Semitism

Sometimes, religion embraces you like a nice hug and uplifts you through your endeavors and livelihood. The five-time published Young Adult author Laura Silverman, whose works include “Girl Out of Water,” “You Asked for Perfect,” and the muti-author anthology “It’s a Whole Spiel,” feels that way, and she thinks her Jewish community helped her as a writer.

She was raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, which she calls “such a wonderful Jewish community,” and that “instilled a passion in her to show on the pages of her stories.“

“Although each of my characters is different, I enjoy showing the positive influence of Judaism on my characters, whether that be religious or cultural,” Silverman said. 

Even though Silverman’s first novel “Girl Out of Water” features a secular main character, her second novel “You Asked for Perfect” focuses on a male Jewish main character named Ariel Stone.

“Ariel’s Jewish experience is basically identical to my Jewish experience — I grew up going to a conservative synagogue, observed the high holidays, went to shul regularly, and almost always had Shabbat dinner with my family,” Silverman said.

Silverman’s Judaic upbringing was an overall positive influence on her life. Silverman, like her character Ariel, also sometimes struggled to balance those obligations with schoolwork obligations. She hopes that Jewish teens who read “You Asked for Perfect” learn to embrace the aspects of Judaism that make them feel good.  

However, Silverman’s experience as a Jewish woman hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. In 2016, she criticized the then-Presidential candidate on Twitter for sharing a graphic of his opponent Hillary Clinton with a Star of David and the caption “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever,” according to the Huffington Post. 

Her tweet was met with a barrage of extremely anti-Semitic hate. Neo-Nazis sent her messages telling her to take a nap in the oven, and in an Op-Ed for the Atlanta Jewish Times, she said that one person sent her “a picture of a frog wearing Nazi garb and standing in front of Auschwitz’s gate with the caption ‘You get a gold star!’”

Silverman was at first terrified by the horrible comments, and she began to retreat — she wanted to report all the replies and put her account on private, she said.

Then, she was inspired by a quote from the Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel who died on the day she was cyber-attacked.

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented,” Wiesel said, according to Good Reads.

Her response to this incident was to share screenshots with family and friends who supported her.

Anti-Semitic hate crimes are all too common in America today, as FBI statistics show that 58.1% of hate crimes motivated by religious bias from 2017 were anti-Jewish.

When Silverman was asked what advice she has for responding to anti-Semitic attacks, she said it’s a tough question to answer.

“I feel like it’s really going to depend on the individual situation and person. Sometimes it’s best to raise your voice and fight back, but sometimes that can put you in more danger. Invest in your Jewish community and in other allies, so if this happens you’ll have a support system to turn to,” she said.

Silverman also tells young teens who would like to enter a creative field that, in the present, they should mainly focus on the parts they enjoy.

“If you like writing stories, just enjoy writing stories and don’t put pressure on yourself to hit certain goalposts by certain times,” Silverman said. She also encourages Jewish artists and writers to find fellow Jewish creatives. “They’ll make great friends and likely help your work!”