Columns, Opinion

Bearing Witness: Rising anti-Semitic sentiments in America

Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, was held last Thursday. On this day, we remember victims of the Holocaust, the six million Jews and five million others who were killed. We remember those who survived but still live with the trauma, and those who have survivors as parents, grandparents and even friends.

As Jews were transformed into “the other” of European society, they were prosecuted for their beliefs, ancestry, religion and identity. Anti-Semitism has had tumultuous effects on the development of the Jewish people in Europe and in America. Today, anti-Semitism is sadly still alive.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitism in the United States spiked 86 percent from 2016 to 2017. In 2016, there were more than 100 incidents on college campuses and more than 200 incidents at elementary, middle and high schools.

Two weeks ago, a Holocaust survivor in Europe was stabbed to death and burned in a hate crime. A week later, a Jewish man was found dead and bound in his Paris apartment. This explicit violence does not happen so frequently in America, but anti-Semitism has manifested itself on both the right and the left.

On the alt-right of course, anti-Semitism is not new. But it has certainly spiked since the election of Trump. A recent article on the Atlanta Jewish Times reads: “The white nationalists adore Trump in the same way the Germans were entranced by their Fuhrer. Just watch the videos of his rallies, the starry-eyed followers loving his insults. A critique of the president or the first lady can set off a vile tweet storm from his loyal fans.”

According to the ADL, there were 34 anti-Semitic incidents linked to the election. In Denver, graffiti was found stating, “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.” In November, a stranger confronted a Florida man and told him, “Trump is going to finish what Hitler started.”

Trump’s crusade to bring back “Merry Christmas” is anti-Semitic in nature. This demonstrates his motive to place Christianity as America’s only religion, excluding all other religious and ethnic groups. According to one rabbi, Trump is a man a man who is “koshering racism with his politics.” The rise of technology has also given way for extremist groups and neo-Nazi groups an online presence. At the rally in Charlottesville that killed one and left 19 injured, many chanted: “Jews will not replace us.” Trump failed to condemn the neo-Nazis, and instead enabled them.

At the progressive Dyke March, a march for gay rights in Chicago this past July, three Jewish women carrying rainbow flags with the Star of David were asked to leave. Their flags were seen as a trigger and “made people feel unsafe,” according to an event organizer.

On the left, Israel is seen as the oppressor, and the Star of David represents not only Israel, but also the Jewish identity collectively. The march prides itself on the intersectionality of being gay and female, and the effects of that identity as a whole. In fact, liberalism claims to welcome all identities with openness. But with anti-Israeli sentiments spreading, the Jewish identity is being excluded from the conversation. For a liberal, progressive Jewish person, this is a large and pressing problem, even though it is manifested subtly.

As Jews, we are aware of our history and the dangers of intolerance, as the Holocaust taught us this lesson. In “The Political Behavior of American Jews,” author Lawrence Fuchs argues that “liberalism emerged ineluctably from Jewish values” which stress the importance of charity and social justice. In Psalm 82:3-4 of the Torah, it says the following: “Defend the poor and the orphan; deal justly with the poor and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” It is central to the Jewish religion to help people in need, who are suffering and who are marginalized.

One of the greatest rabbis, Hillel, said in his teachings: “Do not separate yourself from the community.” Growing up, Jewish children are often taught about the act of giving tzedakah, or charity, to those who are less fortunate. One of the most important things in Judaism is to make a sacrifice. So, to turn a blind eye to racial and cultural hatred or decide to not bear witness to injustice in our own country is not representative of Jewish values. This is why so many Jews are liberal, and this is why anti-Semitism on the left is a problem.

Comments are closed.