Anti-Semitism: The Unacknowledged Hate
March 3rd, 2019: Pictures surface of students from Newport Harbor High School in California doing the Nazi salute around red solo cups organized in the shape of a swastika.
February 19th, 2019: A Jewish Cemetery near Strasbourg, France is vandalized with spray-painted swastikas.
October 27th, 2018: A man, who had previously posted anti-semitic content on social media, shoots and kills 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh.
August 12th, 2018: A ‘Unite the Right’ rally takes place in Charlottesville, with neo-nazis shouting, “Jews will not replace us” and the Nazi chant, “Blood and Soil.”
December 7th, 2017: A Palestinian man holding a Palestinian flag demolishes the windows and exterior of the ‘HaCarmel’ kosher restaurant, situated in the Jewish district of Amsterdam.
These incidents are not random, and they should not be surprising. Appalling, yes, but a culture of anti-semitism has gripped America and Europe for decades, and though many of us would like to think this hate has come to an end, doing so would be grossly naive. In fact, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a database which has recorded attacks and hate speech on minority groups since 1913, the number of anti-semitic attacks in the U.S rose by nearly 60% in 2017 alone.
Hatred against Jews is a sentiment associated to World War II and the Holocaust; many people assume that anti-semitism disappeared with the end of World War 11, or is confined to the few attacks they hear about in the media. If you are not Jewish, this issue probably is not on your radar, making it unsurprising that the recurring events of anti-semitism and hatred have fallen on largely deaf ears.
The Pittsburgh shooting was the only incident of anti-semitism that received prolonged and significant national attention in recent years, suggesting that many prominent news stations fail to devote adequate time to reporting on hate crimes against Jews. The implications of this are serious, given that a lack of media coverage may give the false impression that anti-semitism is no longer present in communities.
A 2018 study conducted by CNN reflected the anti-semitism that is woven into European culture: three in ten adults said Jewish people have too much influence in finance and business; one in five adults said Jewish people have too much influence in media. This, combined with the number of anti-semitic incidents occurring both in America and Europe, indicates undeniable anti-semitism.
Yet, when asked if there are enough spaces at Packer dedicated to talking about this issue, 64.6% of 79 respondents to a survey sent out to the Upper School said no. When deadly attacks such as the Pittsburgh shooting are carried out against Jews, our faculty, administration, and community leaders often stay silent. In a response to whether he recalled Packer acknowledging the Pittsburgh shooting, Leo Portnoy (‘20) said, “No, which is odd considering the fact that it is the deadliest mass shooting against the Jewish community in the United States.”
There was a Jew Crew meeting about the shooting and a CCE, but these were organized and attended by predominantly Jewish students. “They did address it very briefly…they mentioned it happened and acknowledged that it was a tragedy and it affected many people in the Packer community. But, as you said, the two opportunities to discuss it were led by Jewish students and personally, I felt as if the CCE was arranged because there was so much student backlash against the fact that this issue wasn’t addressed properly,” said Jew Crew club leader Esme Levine, (‘19). “All in all, you can probably tell, I’m slightly enraged that this is not a topic Packer students as a community have been able to discuss. Just because it’s not relevant to all students, does not mean the Packer community as a whole should not be listening and acting upon such problems.”
Not only does the responsibility to raise awareness around anti-semitism often fall on Jewish students, but so too does the responsibility to educate others about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is at the root of much of the hatred and ignorance targeted at Jews. One anonymous response to the survey read, “There is a subliminal distaste for Jews within such a liberal space because of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (largely deriving from a lack of knowledge surrounding the topic).”
The Israeli-Palestinean conflict is one of the world’s longest and most controversial wars. At the heart of this conflict is a fight over land: The West Bank and Gaza. Today, the West Bank is under the control of the Palestinian Authority, though it is under Israeli occupation. This essentially means that it is comprised of Israeli troops, who continue to enforce Israeli restrictions on Palestinean activities, and Israeli settlers, who are primarily Jews expanding communities within the West Bank, effectively denying land to the Palestinians. This explanation was an extremely simplified overview of the current situation, as well as the extent of its impact on the Jewish community.
Sadly, many people, Packer students included, know very little about the current conflict, seeing it merely as, “Israelis, who are Jews, are the bad guys, and we have to protect Palestinians.” There is an element of truth to this. Yes, many of the actions of the Israeli government toward Palestine are not defendable in any way, but does that mean that all Jews, by false association, are to be targeted for a country’s actions? “Opposing the only Jewish state on the face of the Earth and claiming that they are the sole issue in the Israel-Palestinian conflict is akin to antisemitism,” Leo agreed.
The lack of awareness around modern anti-semitism creates a vicious cycle. This leads to an extremity of the violence and hate perpetrated toward Jews; the only solution is to open conversations and inform others of this continuous treatment. By ignoring this glaring issue, we risk inflaming its impact, leading to more lives lost and more ignorance spreading throughout our community.