Antisemitism in Modern America

May 21, 2017
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Unfortunately, antisemitism seems to be rising from the ashes that the Holocaust left behind several decades ago. Politicians and American citizens who were once too reluctant to admit an admiration for the Nazi regime now feel safe to speak out. This means that antisemitism could be lurking anywhere, including in the minds of some people you thought you knew well. Antisemitism is a disgusting prejudice that has been hiding in the woodwork of our society and is slowly making its way out of the cracks. As these fissures become wider, more and more antisemites will reveal their hateful opinions. When antisemitism escapes from the fractures in the wood, righteous people cannot retreat in fear. I do not want to go into hiding, and as a Jew it is in my birthright to protect my people and myself.

Jewish history contains countless stories of my ancestors being stomped on and ridiculed for their beliefs. Hatred and lies have been spewed from the mouths of antisemites for thousands of years. It has definitely been less obvious in the past few decades as society has become more multicultural and accepting. In today’s world, Jews have lived for the most part without prejudice peering over their shoulders. It is easy to ignore a small group of cowards who discriminate against Jewish culture, but now it seems that it is more than just an insignificant faction. After Donald Trump was elected as president, antisemites began to feel safe to emerge and express their poisonous opinions. It is hard to prove whether Trump himself is antisemitic, but it is clear that his confident demeanor has inspired others with unpopular opinions to speak out. He gave power to those who should have remained powerless, and now it is getting out of control.

An important example of political antisemitism is known as “dog-whistling” and this practice has become more prominent now that Trump is in office. The online Political Dictionary defines dog-whistle politics as “a type of political speech using code words that appear to mean one thing to the general population but have a different meaning for a targeted part of the audience” (Political Dictionary). Trump and his administration use this tactic frequently. At the Conservative Political Action Conference, Steve Bannon, White House Chief Strategist, and “Trump Whisperer,” made a remark that was clearly a dog-whistle to the antisemites listening. According to the Chicago Tribune, in response to questions about bomb threats towards Jewish community centers, Bannon said of the press, “They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has” (Huppke). It is evident that when Bannon refers to a “globalist media” he is talking about Jews. A conspiracy theory about Jews is that with their influence in the media, they are planning to take over the world. This is what Bannon was referencing when he said this, but only those who are a part of the targeted antisemitic audience are meant to understand. This is becoming more common as Trump continues to condone this inappropriate behavior in his administration.

Recent news has shown that hateful speech can lead to violent acts. Jewish community centers all over the country are receiving bomb threats. An article published on March 13, 2017 on the CNN website states that since the election of Donald Trump, bomb threats have been directed at over 100 Jewish community centers (Levenson and Stapleton). Thousands of Jews fear returning to their synagogues and schools, and I do not blame them. I cannot imagine being afraid to go to my own temple, a place that is a symbol of my religion. This problem has spread throughout the United States, and most would expect that our president would take action and prevent this dilemma from furthering. In response to the bomb threats, Trump said that this is “a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil” (Huppke). He recognized that there is a problem, but offered no plan to find a solution.

Of all the horrible acts of antisemitism, I believe that the spray painting of swastikas is one of the most hateful and heartless crimes. I remember when I was twelve, I was sitting with my father in my synagogue listening to a talk about antisemitism. The word “swastika” came up in the conversation, and being the curious child that I was, I asked him what it meant. He told me that it was a symbol offensive to Jews that was used by Hitler during the Holocaust, and then he proceeded to draw it on the back of a small slip of paper to show me. Immediately after showing me, he ripped it up, and it was gone. After that day, I hoped to never face the swastika again, but my wish did not come true. As a Jewish adult, I am aware of the presence of swastikas and their symbolism. Schools in particular seem to be a target for this inappropriate vandalism. Just recently a high school in Phoenix, Arizona was discovered to have been graffitied with swastikas and racist phrases. Spray painted on the wall next to that was the phrase “white power” (Edwards). Swastikas are no longer only used against Jews; they are now used as an all-encompassing symbol of white supremacy. Those who place themselves in this category are probably racist, bigoted, and antisemitic. The civil among us need to push these people back into the cracks that have opened up, and seal them for good. I will not tolerate this behavior in my country that I want to feel safe living in. I will speak out and encourage my friends to reject antisemitic speech because silence can be interpreted as acceptance. My Jewish heritage is something that I am incredibly proud of, and I will not let any act of antisemitism take that away from me.

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