We Need To Have A Serious Talk About Anti-Semitism
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Politics and Activism

We Need To Have A Serious Talk About Anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism did not start and end with the Holocaust, and in the past few years, it has increased significantly in the United States.

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We Need To Have A Serious Talk About Anti-Semitism

Just last week, there was a fatal attack on a synagogue in Vienna, Austria. It's been a few months since people of influence made blatantly anti-Semitic comments on social media. Jewish cemeteries are destroyed, Chabad houses are set aflame, and I witness Jewish people verbally attacked online by neo-Nazis. As a Jewish person, what followed made me sick to my stomach, seeing comments actually supporting these anti-Semitic notions. What made me and others feel even more uncomfortable was, as the Jewish community came under attack, those who had been so vocal about their support for the BLM movement were silent. The Jewish people were left to stand on their own after being supportive of BLM. Personally, I have seen pretty much all of my Jewish friends post in support of BLM, sign petitions, protest, donate, whatever they could, as it should be. Black Lives Matter is a Jewish value. But when it came time for those to show their support of the Jewish community, most everyone was silent… except those same Jewish friends who were advocating for BLM.

And when we posted the same type of infographics and calls for social justice that we had for BLM, we were accused of trying to take attention away from BLM or trying to undermine the movement with our own. We never said that BLM should be put on hold. We just wished you would include Jews in your activism. Because there are Black Jews too, and they were also affected by the anti-Semitic remarks. Black Lives Matter is a Jewish value.

You do not get to cherry-pick your activism. Political activism is political activism and it should include all persecuted groups. Fighting anti-Semitism does not, has never, and never will, discount the systemic racism against BIPOC that this country sees.

There is no point in being angry about the lack of support. I don't think that many non-Jews really understand what anti-Semitism is. I don't think they know that it's not just the issue of the Holocaust, and I don't think that they know that they commit micro-aggressions towards Jewish people when they don't necessarily mean to.

In simple terms, anti-Semitism is "hostility to or prejudice against Jews."

Anti-Semitism, though not termed until the 19th century, has been around since ancient times (we're talking BCE here), long long before the Holocaust, and remains an issue today, even 75 years after the Holocaust.

In 2014, the Anti-Defamation League took a poll in 102 countries and territories. 1 billion (1,000,000,000) people hold anti-Semitic views. Thirty-five percent of people had never heard of the Holocaust. Forty-one percent believe that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own country. Seventy-four percent of people in the Middle East and North Africa hold anti-Semitic views, which makes it the highest regional percentage in the world. Of the remaining 26% who hold anti-Semitic views, 70% have never actually met a Jewish person. Jews only make up 3% percent of the American population, but of that 3%, 35% of American Jews said that they have experienced anti-Semitism in the past 5 years.

Anti-Semitism today may not look like concentration camps and yellow stars. It looks like several fatal attacks during Chanukah. It looks like armed security guards standing outside of synagogues. It looks like swastikas drawn on personal property. It looks like Jewish students being singled out and harassed when learning about the Holocaust in school. That is, if the Holocaust is even taught at all. It looks like being cyber-attacked and doxxed online for mentioning you're Jewish in passing.

It looks like the jokes you make because "they're just jokes." Holocaust jokes are not funny. "You just don't understand dark humor." No, I understand it, and satire, quite well. What I don't understand is why you believe it's appropriate in any situation to make fun of the mass genocide of 11 million people.

To combat anti-Semitism, one has to start small. It is a huge feat to stop the violence towards Jewish people overnight. But, we can start by taking out anti-Semitic rhetoric from our vocabulary and our way of thinking. I have compiled a lengthy list of some of the anti-Semitic tropes, stereotypes, actions, and comments that I have seen. Please take the time to read it and absorb the information. I am not calling any single person out here. I just want it to be known that sometimes, even if you don't mean to, your words can do more harm than good.

1. The belief that Jews have too much power.

Often followed by...

2. The belief that Jews are inherently disloyal.

Which again is often followed by...

3. The belief that Jews are greedy, or automatically connecting Jews to money.

These first three stereotypes are some of the most common anti-Semitic tropes that have been used for a millennia and are still in use today. I personally call them "lazy stereotypes" because they have been spread far and wide for so long, that they don't require looking up "anti-Semitic stereotypes." Also, they don't take quite as long to type, as most anti-Semites using these preposterous tropes hide behind a screen anyway.

4. The age-old belief that the Jews killed Jesus.

I don't know how to tell you this, but Jesus was a Jew. He was a Jewish person of color, actually. Jesus believed that he was the Messiah, and the Jewish people did not accept him as the Messiah. Thus, Christianity was made to form a religion in which Jesus was accepted as the Messiah. And the Romans killed Jesus, not the Jews.

5. The idea of "Judeo-Christianity."

This is not a real thing. To say it is, or to lump together Judaism and Christianity, is anti-Semitic. Judaism was established centuries before Christianity. Christianity adopted a lot of things from Judaism, which makes sense when you realize that Jesus was a Jew. But then Christianity morphed into its own entirely separate religion. Followers of Jesus, or followers of Christianity, were no longer Jewish, even though they may have been at one point. They converted. He only lived for like, 32 years; that isn't a lot of time to reinvent the wheel. However, there are many differences between the Hebrew Bible, or the Torah, and the Christian Old Testament. And then Christianity has the New Testament, which the texts written are found nowhere in Judaism. Judaism and Christianity, while we may believe in the same G-d, are completely different religions and should be regarded as such. Morphing them into one is inherently Jewish erasure.

6. "Messianic Jews"

There is no such thing as a Messianic Jew. Messianic Jews are those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, which are Christians. Jews have not recognized any Messiah as of yet, therefore, Messianic Jews are just Christians.

7. The myth that Jews use Christian blood for religious rituals, also known as a Blood Libel.

This has just never happened. It originated, as I believe, with the rumor that a group of Jews kidnapped a Christian child and used his blood to make matzah? A very far reach, but for some reason, has remained a trope used today.

8. Bringing up the Israel-Palenstine Conflict to a Jewish person when the IPC is not being discussed, even in the slightest. 

Calling someone who is 1) not Israeli 2) not living in Israel out is anti-Semitic, and really does nothing. There is no need to equate someone's Jewish identity to a political issue. To assume that person's stance on the conflict is out of line as well.

9. Equating Jews to communists.

On the political spectrum, the far extreme right is called fascism, and on the far extreme left is communism. While a majority of Jews are left-leaning, and I'll admit I've met some modern Jewish communists, to automatically equate them without knowing them personally is historically inaccurate as it is anti-Semitic. Also, historically, the communists did not like the Jews, either.

10. Calling Jews a race.

Jewish is an Ethno-religion. That means that you can be ethnically Jewish, but not be a practicing religious Jew. You can be a Jew who practices Judaism but has no Jewish ancestry. You can be a Jew from a long line of Jews who is very religious, kinda religious, or not as religious as maybe your parents would like you to be, but all are valid identities of a Jew. To say that Jewish is a race is, in fact, Nazi rhetoric.

11. "You don't look Jewish."

There are several things wrong with this sentence. Some people say it as a joke. Some think that they are paying a compliment. Your ignorance of the implications of this sentence is not necessarily your fault, but I must tell you that it is anti-Semitic. First, because it automatically assumes that there is only one way to look Jewish. I am going to make my own assumption that you are picturing someone with dark, curly hair, dark eyes, a large nose, and probably a nasally accent? The most basic anti-Semitic caricature of a Jewish person. If you also imagine horns and a tail, then we may have a larger issue on our hands than profiling. There is no "one way" to look Jewish. There are Jews who are white-passing. There are Asian Jews, there are Jews in South America, Australia, Jews in the Middle East, Jews in Africa, and of course, all over Europe. There are Black Jews. Not just African American Jews, but for example, there is a large Jewish population of native Ethiopians in Ethiopia. Jews come in all different shapes and sizes.

Second, this also plays into the Nazi rhetoric and belief they had of eugenics (which originated in America, by the way). Nazi scientists used eugenics as a basis for their discrimination against certain groups, mainly the Jews, to not only target them but also make a distinct separation between them and Aryan citizens. Those with light hair and light eyes were seen as superior, and those with darker features were seen as subhuman.

Third, from a personal stance, I've been told this several times and I find it extremely invalidating and a contribution to my Imposter Syndrome. As someone who was not raised Jewish and is now, it feels like those who are saying it is pushing me back into my "place." Not being "Jewish" enough to fit in with my fellow Jews, and yet not fitting in with the community I left behind, either. It can make someone feel lost and unwanted. Just a little glimpse of some of the effects of anti-Semitic microaggressions have on mental health.

12. Saying, "Oh, well you have blonde hair and blue eyes. The Nazis wouldn't have killed you anyway."

This is extremely, extremely, extremely anti-Semitic. It is not okay to say, no matter how much of a "compliment" you believe that is.

13. Cultural Appropriation. 

There is a difference between Cultural Appropriation and Cultural Appreciation. I saw an excellent example on another social media platform described by a Rabbi, and it is a similar situation to one a Jewish friend of mine has experienced.

You, a Jewish person, invite your non-Jewish friend to a Jewish ritual of sorts to observe, say, Passover Seder. I, too, have invited non-Jewish friends to Passover seder. I believe it's a fun way to share your traditions, and it's free food. Your non-Jewish friend attends the seder, as an observer. That is Cultural Appreciation. Cultural Appreciation is okay, encouraged even! However, if your non-Jewish friend came to your Passover seder, observed it, and decided that they liked some of the customs of your Passover seder and decided to have their own Passover seder, change and modify the customs, and host it for you and your non-Jewish family and friends, that is Cultural Appropriation. Especially when Jewish customs are taken and reconfigured to be seen through a Christian theological lens, as they have been in the past. Like all forms of Cultural Appropriation, this is bad.

14. Being "Anti Nazi," but not being "Pro Jew."

If you are willing to put all of your energy into calling out and arguing with Nazis online, then you should use the same energy to stand up against anti-Semitism and speak out against discrimination towards Jewish people.

15. Holocaust Jokes.

They're not funny. Especially coming out of a non-Jewish person's mouth, but in general, Holocaust jokes are not funny at all. It is not cool to draw swastikas, especially on property owned by a Jewish person, or to do the Nazi salute and yell "Heil Hitler" in front of a Jewish person. It's extremely disrespectful and undermines the seriousness of a genocide that claimed the lives of 11 million people, not just Jews.

16. Holocaust Analogies.

This is just as anti-Semitic as it is rude. With the current COVID-19 pandemic, I have seen countless posts and memes comparing quarantine to Jews hiding from the Nazis, wearing face masks to being forced to bear a yellow star, among many other abhorrent things. But this is not the only instance in which I have seen Holocaust analogies. People love to make the most outrageous comparisons between the Holocaust, a tragic instance of systematic genocide of 11 million people, to things that pale in comparison. And when they compare the Holocaust to other genocides ("Oh, well this genocide wasn't as big as the Holocaust, it's not that big of a deal," etc.) it's disrespectful to both events and all victims as it undermines them. In all cases, this is not the Oppression Olympics. Allow the Holocaust to exist as its own separate event and allow other acts of identity-based violence as its own event and let every involved party grieve.

17. Telling Jewish people that they dwell too much on the Holocaust.

I know to some, 75-80 years ago feels like a lifetime ago, especially to younger generations. However, we must realize that we [are fortunate enough to] have living Holocaust survivors among us. They still have to deal with the horrors they experienced. Just a few days ago, a Nazi concentration camp guard was put on trial. They still have to answer for their crimes against humanity. Inter-generational trauma is very much a real thing, and I have witnessed children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren share the trauma their ancestors experienced, even though they themselves have not experienced it.

18. [About the removal of Confederate Monuments] "You're erasing history! The concentration camps are still standing! Why don't you tear those down too because millions of people died there?"

First, let me address that there is a huge difference between a monument and a memorial. A monument glorifies a person or event, even if they don't necessarily deserve to be glorified, as is the case with Confederate statues that glorify racists, slave owners, and murderers. A memorial remembers someone or something. The concentration camps— or what is left of them— are labeled as memorials or museums. They act as evidence and primary sources of the atrocities committed during the Holocaust. They stand as a daunting reminder to humanity to never let something happen like the Holocaust again. Holocaust memorials are nowhere near comparable to a hunk of racist metal.

19. Holocaust Denial.

Holocaust Denialism describes the belief that the Holocaust never happened. The belief that the Jewish people did not fight back, that the 5 million other persecuted persons did not fight back or that they were never a part of the Holocaust. The belief that the Holocaust wasn't as bad as "the media" perceives it, that it was all a propaganda scheme, etc., the list can go on forever. From 1941 to 1945, 11 million people (6 million Jews; 5 million other persecuted groups such as Roma, the mentally and physically handicapped, homosexuals, children, Jehovah's Witnesses, political prisoners, Poles, Soviets, and others) were systematically murdered in the Holocaust. I do not know what more evidence can be brought to a denier's attention. I do not know how one could look at the grotesque photographs and video footage taken during the liberation of the camps in 1945 and tell me that the Holocaust never happened. I do not know how one could look at a pile of dead, emaciated, taken children, and tell me that the Holocaust never happened.

20. "Goysplaining."

Goy is another term for a non-Jew and -splaining comes from the same idea as "mansplaining." This is when a non-Jewish person tries to explain to a Jewish that the thing/comment/action, or the thing that the Goy just said to the Jewish person, is not anti-Semitic and that the Jewish person is just overreacting and being dramatic. When a Jewish person tells you, a non-Jewish person, that something is anti-Semitic, or it made them feel uncomfortable or unsafe, 99.99% of the time they are not overreacting and actually were affected by the aggression in question. To diminish what the Jewish person is feeling, just because you were made uncomfortable yourself for being called out on your anti-Semitism, is anti-Semitic in itself. A non-Jew cannot dictate what is and isn't anti-Semitic, just like a non-BIPOC cannot say what is and isn't racist, a heterosexual person cannot say what is and isn't homophobic, a cis-gendered person cannot say what is and isn't transphobic, etc. Do you see the pattern?

Though this list is extensive, it is not a complete compilation of all things anti-Semitic. These are things that I may or may not have experienced myself, or I've known someone who has, but these things do happen to people. Anti-Semitism is, unfortunately, alive and well, and Jews are not being overly dramatic when they say that they are still experiencing anti-Semitism. You may not see it because it is not overt acts of violence. It may just be micro-aggressions such as these, but they are still just as harmful. I hope that by reading this list, you may have learned something.
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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