Blaming the Jews for the world’s ills has become a staple in extremist rhetoric.
We’ve all heard it—that word that vilifies everything about you. But have you ever felt your stomach suddenly drop when you realized that they were yelling it at you? Have you felt the blood rush through your body as you walk through your own neighborhood, only to pass by a spray-painted symbol of the people who wanted to murder your family?
The people experiencing these attacks—we are your friends. Your neighbors. We are the teenager who bags your groceries. The lead singer of your favorite band. Your daughter’s kindergarten best friend.
And we deserve to feel safe. Safe in our neighborhoods, safe in our homes, safe in our work, our libraries, our streets, our sports arenas, our places of worship. We should be able to scroll Twitter without the fear that another one of your favorite musicians, hometown athletes or elected officials will make a proud declaration of antisemitism, using Jews as a scapegoat for anything they perceive to be wrong in their life or in the country.
At a time when our country is more divided than ever before, and after another divisive election, we need to remember that antisemitism is not a partisan issue. Bigotry and racism are intertwined enemies, part of a bigger system of hate, division and disempowerment that propagates white supremacy. We cannot fight this deep-rooted hatred alone.
We should be able to scroll Twitter without the fear that another one of your favorite musicians, athletes or elected officials will make a proud declaration of antisemitism, using Jews as a scapegoat for anything they perceive to be wrong in their life or in the country.
Antisemitism isn’t a new trend. As U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, often says, antisemitism is one of the oldest hatreds, and blaming the Jews for the world’s ills has become a staple in extremist rhetoric.
Whether it’s asserting that the Jews have too much money, that we rule the world or that we invented the Holocaust, Jewish people always been a scapegoat. What’s new is that these old tropes are continually reinforced by the conspiracy theories and disinformation that flood fanatical chat rooms, servers and websites. These dangerous beliefs are progressing from aggressive language to physical violence, and we’re living with a level of fear that’s unprecedented in recent generations.
Just four years ago in Pittsburgh, an armed gunman attacked worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people and wounding six others in what would be the deadliest attack on Jews in U.S. history. Prior to the attack, he not only posted antisemitic comments about the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), but he made antisemitic comments during the attack. Later, he told a SWAT officer that he wanted all Jews to die.
In Jan, 2022, radical hatred struck again when an armed man claiming to have bombs took four people, including a rabbi—and a member of the Central Conference of American Rabbis—hostage for 10 hours at the Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas. When asked why he targeted a synagogue, the suspect attributed his decision to the fact that the U.S. “only cares about Jewish lives.”
Old tropes are continually reinforced by the conspiracy theories and disinformation that flood fanatical chat rooms, servers and websites.
These attacks are not exceptions. Antisemitism has exploded across the country since former President Trump took office. Despite the fact that Jews consist of less than 2 percent of the U.S. population, almost 60 percent of religious-based hate crimes were against us. At the CCAR, we’re trying to protect ourselves by working with the Secure Community Network to offer access to safety training for Jewish communities. But it’s not enough, and it never will be.
In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) saw a 34 percent increase in antisemitic incidents over the previous year—the most since the ADL began tracking these statistics in 1979. The report also found “rising levels of attacks towards Jewish people in almost every aspect and age range … includ[ing] incidents directed at community centers, synagogues, college campuses and grade schools, with an unprecedented 106 percent rise in antisemitic incidents in K-12 institutions.” Additional research further backs up these horrific statistics, with one in four Jews in the U.S. experiencing antisemitism last year.
We feel alone and scared, and we’re calling on you—our friends and neighbors—for help. It’s time for all of us, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity, to stand together and denounce the recent rise in antisemitic attacks, and to show the outspoken xenophobes that hatred cannot prevail. It’s time for us to call out our friends for using antisemitic and racist language, even when it’s behind the mask of a “joke.”
And in 2024, it will be time for us to vote for candidates who are compassionate and inclusive. Because any person who spouts antisemitic beliefs is not only putting Jewish people at risk, but they are sowing division throughout the country.
If we do not take a stand now, it will send a clear message—one that puts a group’s freedom of speech ahead of another group’s safety—and this generations-old pattern of hatred and violence will never end.
It’s not enough to try and close “this chapter” on antisemitism. Together, we need to destroy the entire book.
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