Antisemitism in America
November 2022 Keeping Connected
The news cycle is intense enough to drive a person bonkers. I know I sound like an old fogey but give me the days of Walter Cronkite! Truthfully, I have started to ration my intake of the news so that I can remain informed and involved but not inflamed and stressed out. The problem with rationing news is the danger of tuning out and becoming passive. That my friends can have serious consequences regarding a whole wide of issues. As Jews who have more often than not been a minority in whatever nation they have lived in, we need only look to history to know what happens when we become disengaged from the events and trends happening culturally, socially and politically in the nation we live in.
Recently I have watched the new Ken Burns series “US and the Holocaust”. Although I had thought I knew a lot about Holocaust history, this documentary was filled with information, insights, and history that I did not know about. I believe that it behooves us as an American Jewish community to watch it if we haven’t already done so. I watched it by streaming it on PBS. Not only does the documentary explore issues that are of historical importance, but it is also frighteningly relevant given the drastic rise of antisemitism in America. Recent antisemitic rants of Ye on social media, the hateful propagation of anti-Semitic myths by Kyrie Irving, the explosion of anti-Semitic, as well as other hate speech on Twitter in the days after Elon Musk took ownership and from the political realm there are simply too many cases. One example was the accusations of a political candidate in Pennsylvania who accused his opponent of “at best being a secular Jew”, when in fact the candidate is an observant Jew. Instead of the issues being the focus of the campaign, the fact that the candidate’s Jewishness was raised caused an explosion of negative commentary about him on social media.
Clearly there are many stereotypes about a wide range of religious and ethnic groups that are negative and disturbing, and none of these should be acceptable. It is impossible to argue with the fact, however, that in recent years there is a dramatic surge in hate and violence against Jews. Although it is often promulgated and disseminated by right-wing extremists, it has begun to creep into acceptability in the mainstream. Antisemitic tropes have many facets. Some of them come from the right and some from the left. There are the stereotypes regarding Jews controlling the media, banks and government and there is the antisemitism that centers on Israel and Zionism. This later kind of antisemitism is happening more on college campuses. It is imperative that we remain educated about these trends and more importantly to call out anyone who promotes this type of hate. Sometimes the statements are more subtle and are meant to rally extremists; statements serve as dog whistles that cause an explosion of more extreme rhetoric.
So what can we do? There was a huge outreach to companies like Adidas in response to Ye’s antisemitic tweets. The economic pressures clearly had an impact and many companies will no longer sponsor him. I think we must also provide our young people with information about how to respond to the current climate. If you look at the Weekly Update, you will see that the Lappin Foundation is hosting a program for teens on Zoom on November 15th. Most importantly we should not assume that it is okay to be bystanders. We need to educate ourselves, speak out and act.
Rabbi Shoshana M. Perry