Antisemitism: Why Awareness Isn’t Enough

After examples pile up of anti-Semitic fueled expression over the last 70 years, the prejudice and discrimination must end.

Evelyn Blower

After examples pile up of anti-Semitic fueled expression over the last 70 years, the prejudice and discrimination must end.

Evelyn Blower, Staff Reporter

Maybe you’ve driven by the Jewish Community Center of the Lehigh Valley in Allentown, or seen the various synagogues that dot the region. You might have a friend or two who grew up Jewish, or still belongs to a Jewish congregation. As the Jewish community lives around you, the antisemitism around it does as well. 

Five years ago, in late 2016, a number of Lehigh Valley schools made national news about racist and antisemitic acts of hatred. Among the various incidents, the media pointed out some students of Southern Lehigh, who engaged in the drawing of swastikas in bathroom walls, Nazi salutes in hallways, and the yelling of racial slurs to students of certain ethnic or religious backgrounds.

In an article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a photo from a 2020 protest attended by Proud Boys, the conspiracy theory group, showed a man wearing a “6MWE” t-shirt: 6MWE stands for “6 million wasn’t enough,” referring to Jews murdered in the mass genocide in the Holocaust. To have someone express that 6 million human lives ending wasn’t enough is something that settled dark in a pit in my stomach, where guilt and shame go to simmer.

“I remember in second grade we watched a video of American soldiers liberating a concentration camp, and my mom had cheesesteaks, tater tots, and apple sauce for dinner, and after eating, I went and threw up,” said high school principal Mrs. Beth Guarriello, who was raised Orthodox Jewish. “I was so sickened by it; it really made an impact.”

Anti-semitism, as defined by the International Holocaust Rememberance Alliance, is “a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Yet, this definition (endorsed by the Biden administration) isn’t enough to even incorporate every antisemitic belief against Jews. It only cites the extremist nature in relation to the events of the Holocaust and other violent acts. Some Jewish activists have found this counteractive to pressing, less extremist issues, like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 


Many teens like myself haven’t felt comfortable talking about antisemitism, and this stems from the treatment in our education about the subject. We learn about the horrors of the Holocaust, about the Jews killed in Auschwitz or other death camps in Europe. We soberly read Elie Wiesel’s “Night” in English, and learn about Middle Eastern conflicts in World Cultures and History. We don’t continue to see or discuss the lingering effects of antisemitism in modern-day society, beyond the years of the Holocaust and anti-Jewish extremism.

I, truthfully, needed a few hours of research before I felt near comfortable talking about antisemitism in an educated manner. Many of us find ourselves more inclined to know more about racism against black people, or anti-LGBT sentiments, but somehow, antisemitism can get so easily brushed under the rug.

US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, now stripped of all committee positions, is one of the most notable examples of using social media in 2018 to promote antisemitic theories and propaganda. There is a post where she claimed that a California wildfire originated from a laser from space controlled by the prominent Jewish Rothschild family. There’s a post concerning the American Muslim Women Political Action committee, where she wrote, “Wtf is their mission??? To make sure every women [sic] is dominated by Islam, is covered in sheets, loses our freedoms, and has to have our vaginas mutilated???

 

Three years after posting these inflammatory statements, Greene holds Georgia’s 14th District representation in Congress, where there are 20 Jewish members

Far-right “media” sources fan the flames of antisemitism, which goes under the radar of much of the public. As much goes unseen, these offensive topics are brushed under the rug. We allow one thing after another to build up on the plate of things we are supposed to care about, and yet antisemitism always seems to go untouched. There are so many topics that go unnoticed (none of which I am trying to undermine) but the effect of antisemitism cannot go neglected any longer.

A recent occurrence sparked my interest in this topic. “The Mandalorian” actor Gina Carano, who plays the mercenary Cara Dune, is no longer employed by the Lucasfilms company. She reposted a picture on her Twitter, now deleted, saying “Jews were beaten in the streets, not by Nazi soldiers but by their neighbors…. even by children. Because history is edited, most people today don’t realize that to get to the point where Nazi soldiers could easily round up thousands of Jews, the government first made their own neighbors hate them simply for being Jews. How is that any different from hating someone for their political views?


The final statement stands out to me. She compared the hatred of conservative political views to the hatred toward Jews during the Holocaust. This blatantly antisemitic, blatantly hateful message is what it took to get her fired, in addition to her posts stating her belief of a fraudulent 2020 election, the use of “beep/bop/boop” to signify her pronouns, and the ridicule of mask-wearers, calling them “sheep” and saying that Democrat leaders are using masking to “control the masses.”

Just recently, the Miami Heat center Meyers Leonard used an anti-semitic slur in a Twitch game stream. Apologizing on Instagram, he said, “While I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, my ignorance about its history and how offensive it is to the Jewish community is absolutely not an excuse.” 

That seems to be the recurring issue here. Not knowing. And why don’t we know?

Anti-semitism is something deeply and grossly ingrained in our culture. It’s recognizable, it’s there, but it’s been overlooked. Before his passing, Elie Wiesel said, “What hurts the victim the most is not the cruelty of the oppressor, but the silence of the bystander.” 

In our community, the silence of the bystanders is deafening. As we watched the clips of the January 6 Capitol riot where a man wore a “Camp Auschwitz” sweatshirt, how did that not spark the same outrage that people felt when a Confederate flag got into the Capitol building?

Anti-semitism is an epidemic of its own. People are not educated about how hurtful some comments, actions, or behaviors are towards practicing Jewish members of the community. We need to teach how continued hatred perpetuates decades-old issues, modern-day issues of racism and antisemitism, and general religious and cultural division.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), started in 1913, is rooted in the mission to end extremism and hatred against Jewish people, and to provide education to “secure justice and fair treatment for all.” Through their programs and resources, one can learn how to truly fight the effects of antisemitism. 

In 1999, following the mass school shooting at Columbine, the ADL formed a school climate improvement framework called No Place for Hate. Through this program, K-12 schools create inclusive communities where all students can thrive. Recently, Southern Lehigh High School began the work to bring No Place for Hate into our own school community. This is a perfect place to get started.

Schools should take action and educate students about antisemitism and should inspire us to take action as soon as we can, in every way we can, to stop hatred for good. If it starts anywhere, it should start here.