Anti-Semitism Here? Are You Sure?
In stark contrast to the rest of the country, 13 percent of New York City is Jewish, which is far above the national average. The Jewish population is even higher here at Packer, as seventh graders can attest to as they spend every weekend at a new b’nai-mitzvah. Despite the concentration of Jewish people, anti-Semitism continues to be a problem in New York City.
Two months ago, there was a string of anti-Semitic attacks against Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, which is just over three miles from Packer. Around that same time, there was a Swastika drawn in a bathroom at Brooklyn Tech and a speaker who was accused of anti-Semitism at Fieldston. These displays of anti-Semitism are close to Packer both geographically and socially. But despite the proximity of these events to our community, many Jewish students feel that they are distant and could not happen at our school.
Many Packer students have not heard of the recent events; the ones who have heard are split on their reactions. Monty Gunnell (‘22) was shocked when hearing about the events since “[he does not] really picture Brooklyn to be an anti-Semitic place.”
However, some Jewish students noted that in recent years events like these have become more common and therefore less surprising. Hearing about hateful events so often has normalized them. Despite this, many Jewish Packer students feel safe for a multitude of reasons. The first of these is that most Jewish students are secular or progressive, meaning they present far differently than the Orthodox Jews dressed in traditional garments who were attacked in Crown Heights and are often the victims of overt, violent anti-Semitism.
Sarah Yankauer (‘20), a co-leader of Jew Crew, feels that “as a person who doesn’t appear very physically Jewish, [she] don’t think that [she is] in danger.” The other reason that Jewish students feel safe is from the sense that Packer is a safe community.
“There’s no way that [could] happen at Packer; [this] is a safe community,” said Monty.
Many echo the sentiment that Packer is a safe community and immune to anti-Semitism. However, Jewish students at Packer do feel like this is a time when the level of global anti-Semitism is high. Some believe that anti-Semitism in New York is caused not by radical neo-nazis, but by liberals whose pro-Palestine and anti-Zionist positions have morphed into anti-Semitism.
Frayda Lieber (‘21) said, “It’s really scary to be a Jew in New York right now because the liberal movement…and the anti-Israel movement is growing and there’s a big branch of that which is really anti-Semitic.”
For Frayda, the recent happenings are reminiscent of the anti-Semitism in Brooklyn during the Crown Heights riots in 1991, which Packer freshmen learn about every year. A shared belief amongst Jewish students is that besides reading Fires In The Mirror, which was only recently introduced into the curriculum, Packer students do not learn about anti-Semitism in required courses. They believe that this results in a misunderstanding of the relationship between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism that some think is at the core of some of the anti-Semitism in Brooklyn.
Ultimately, anti-Semitic events are increasing in occurrence and in their proximity to the Packer community. Despite these scary developments, students are confident that Packer is a safe community.