Eva Singer always dreamed of becoming an American.
The vivacious yet serious Long Beach resident and Hungarian native survived the Holocaust at two years old by fate. According to Singer, she was weeded out from entering Nazi gas chambers because a Nazi soldier felt sorry for her mother, a petite woman carrying a large backpack and two infant children. But her father’s entire family perished in concentration camps and her baby brother died of starvation and dysentery due to conditions in one of the Hungarian Jewish ghettos her family was separated and forced to live in during World War II.
Being born and raised Jewish in Hungary during and after the war meant that Singer constantly faced anti-Semitism. As a little girl, she recalls one of her classmates throwing Jewish slurs at her and being denied admission into an opera company because of her Jewish heritage. “My mother would tell me to not tell people I was Jewish,” Singer says, “I often asked, ‘Why did I have to be Jewish?’ I didn’t understand as a child.”
Even when Singer escaped the Hungarian Uprising and was granted asylum in Israel, she still faced prejudice. But this time, the circumstances were different. “In Israel, there was a lot of hatred towards Arabs and I was refusing to hate them because of my experience in Hungary being a Jew.”
It was during her time in the Israeli military (a mandatory service for men and women in Israel) that Singer met an American man that she would soon marry. When she relocated to a suburb outside of Chicago as a 21-year-old newlywed in 1963, Singer was ecstatic to finally live in the country she always dreamed about. “When I came to this country I said I was never going to suffer again,” she says, “Now, for the first time, I don’t feel safe.”
Last weekend’s display of neo-Nazi symbolism at the “Make America Great Again” march in Huntington Beach, a recent bomb threat at a Long Beach Jewish center and ICE aggressively increasing deportations across the nation has made the usually quiet Singer speak up about what she feels is a similar rise in xenophobia fueled by hyper-nationalism straight from the history books on Nazi Germany.
Now 74 years old, Singer says the racial tension she fled from in war-torn Israel and Hungary is creeping up here considering the rise of hate crimes since Donald Trump began his presidential campaign in 2016. “I’m anti-prejudice in every form and shape,” she says, “I would fight back and I am fighting back.”
While Singer resists Donald Trump’s presidency because she believes he’s a catalyst for hate, Vice President Pence’s latest move to allow states to defund Planned Parenthood also upsets her because of her devotion to women’s issues.
“I know they’re targeting Judaism right now but it’s not only Jews,” says the self-proclaimed feminist. “The Mexicans, where are they? They’re hiding. I worry about them, that they’re just going to kick them out and take them. I’m worried about everybody.”
“It makes me feel afraid for this country,” Singer adds, “I don’t understand, how can we be complacent about this?”