Being Jewish in today’s world in many ways has never been easier – kosher symbols are easily recognizable on food packaging, non-discrimination laws help those who are more observant maintain their faith and their jobs, and many universities have Jewish support on campus through organizations like Hillel or Chabad. But even as all of this is true, there has been a steep rise in anti-Semitism in the past few years.
Only a few days ago, the world paused on Holocaust Remembrance Day to reflect upon the devastating genocide of the Jews that occurred less than eighty years ago. And yet, even as many of us stand up and say, “Never again,” less than half of Americans in 2020 know how many Jews were killed in the Holocaust, according to Pew Research.
The Anti-Defamation League has reported two shocking pieces of information. First, in a 2014 global poll of 102 countries, the ADL found that 35 percent of people had never heard of the Holocaust. Furthermore, of the 26 percent of people with anti-Semitic views, 70 percent of them had never even met a Jew. Secondly, the ADL found through its Audit of Anti-Semitic incidents that the U.S. had 1,879 anti-Semitic acts in 2018, including twice the amount of assaults since 2016.
Of the 26 percent of people with anti-Semitic views, 70 percent of them had never even met a Jew.
In the last few years, Jewish lives have been taken in mass attacks and shootings. In 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and opened fire, killing eleven people and wounding six. In 2019, a gunman entered the Chabad of Poway and killed one person and injured three. This past December, two gunmen entered a kosher market in Jersey City and opened fire, killing four people, including a police officer. And on Hanukkah, a man wielding a machete entered the home of a rabbi in Monsey where he stabbed and wounded five Jews.
Which Side Is It Coming From?
Looking at the above facts, the question must be asked: where is this revitalized anti-Semitism coming from? Is it the alt-right and white supremacists? Is it from the far-left and their anti-Israel rhetoric? The answer is simple: both.
Anti-Semitism has many different faces.
If you compare the rhetoric of the far-right to that of the far-left regarding Jew-hatred, you will see shocking similarities. Representative Ilhan Omar tweeted in 2012, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” feeding into stereotypes that Jews are secretly taking over the world. Compare that to the gunman who opened fire on the Jews of the Poway Synagogue, who wrote in his manifesto that he blamed Jews for the "meticulously planned genocide of the European race.”
Anti-Semitism Doesn’t Always Fit into the Narrative
In addition to the polarization of the two ends of the political spectrum, there has been the long-unaddressed anti-Semitism in the areas in and around New York City. Attacks by African-Americans on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn and other parts of New York have been occurring more and more frequently, but were vastly underreported by the media. Some of these tensions have been part of the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, while other motivations are just Jew-hatred. But the media choosing to under-report these stories - until there were two Jewish massacres within a few weeks of each other - implies that these assaults didn’t fit into the media’s ideal narrative.
Anti-Semitism has many different faces. There are those who parade their ideology proudly, like the protestors who organized the Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville and shouted, “Jews will not replace us!” Then there are those who hide behind their rhetoric, saying they support Jews, but then turn around and befriend people like Louis Farrakhan, who famously said, “I’m not an anti-Semite. I’m anti-Termite.” And then there are those anti-Semites who don’t fit into the traditional narrative and whose actions are ignored until they can’t be ignored any longer.
What We Can Do
Anti-Semitism is on the rise, there is no denying that fact. However, one piece of good news is that the government of the United States does not support or promote anti-Semitism – in fact, these acts are illegal and widely condemned.
If a Jewish friend is walking to synagogue on Sabbath and feels unsafe, walk with her or find a group to accompany her.
But what can we do to stop the rise of anti-Semitism? Call out anti-Semitism when you see it. Stand in solidarity with your Jewish friends. If a Jewish friend is walking to synagogue on Sabbath and feels unsafe, walk with her or find a group to accompany her. And ask questions.
Understanding Judaism and the Jewish way of life opens the door to understanding why some Jews live differently than you do. Learn what you can about those differences and embrace the Jewish culture as one that brings beauty and diversity into our country. And in this time of uncertainty, understanding is the first step toward a better future.
Abby Roth is the creator of Classically Abby, an opera, beauty, fashion, and lifestyle brand dedicated to looking at the world from a classic perspective. Abby is an opera singer with three degrees in operatic performance from USC and Manhattan School of Music. She has performed all over at companies including Opera Omaha, Opera Maine, and Aspen Music Festival. You can find her website at www.classicallyabby.com and follow her on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest at @ClassicallyAbby.