Editor’s Note: At the January meeting of The Desert Stonewall Democrats, President James Williamson assembled a trio of speakers for a panel titled, “The Rise of Bias and Hate Crimes Under Trump. Eileen Stern addressed the rise of hate among Jews.
I personally have never experienced anti-semitism on any large scale. I grew up in Jewish Neighborhoods in Chicago and went to public schools which were predominantly Jewish. Possibly 90 percent. There were Jewish butchers, Jewish bakeries, Yiddish as a first or second language. We all knew about the Holocaust. Many of our classmates had parents who were survivors. So anti-Semitism was well known, just not part of my personal experience.
Even when I got to college and then during my work career where there was a lot of diversity in religion and race, I experienced more discrimination by being a woman than by being Jewish — not until Donald Trump. We have a dear friend who is a Holocaust survivor. He has been saying for two years now that the atmosphere since Trump feels like Nazi Germany. He should know.
According to the Anti Defamation League (ADL) which has been tracking this since 1979, hate crimes against Jews increased 57 percent in 2017. The report for 2018 is expected to be as bad, hopefully, not worse.
The FBI states that hate crimes against Jews increased 37 percent in 2017. The 20 percent difference is how they define hate crimes. The ADL includes hate speech as a hate crime. I agree with this as I truly believe words matter. The FBI does not include hate speech as it not considered criminal due to freedom of speech.
However, that number falls dramatically in California. According to the Los Angeles ADL, hate crimes against Jews increased 27 percent in our state. Imagine thinking a 27 percent increase in hate crimes is BETTER!
The largest increase in hate crimes against Jews was in the category of vandalism. There was an 86 percent increase in vandalism against Jews. This dramatic increase in anti-Semitic acts of vandalism is particularly concerning, because it indicates that the perpetrators feel emboldened enough to break the law. The most glaring examples are the 200 headstones vandalized in a Jewish Cemetery in St. Louis in 2017 and the Beth Jacob synagogue in Irvine where “F-k Jews” was painted in red on their building.
History tells us to be alarmed. Vandalism can lead to the worst we can imagine. In 1922 the Nazi Party was established in Munich. On the Jewish holiday of Sukkot 1923, the windows of the Great Synagogue were vandalized. 15 years later – The Great Synagogue in Munich was the first synagogue in Germany to be destroyed the Nazis when Hitler visited the city in June 1938.
Five months later from November 9 to November 10, 1938, in an incident known as “Kristallnacht”, Nazis in Germany torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses and killed close to 100 Jews. In the aftermath of Kristallnacht, also called the “Night of Broken Glass,” some 30,000 Jewish men were arrested and sent to Nazi concentration camps. German Jews had been subjected to repressive policies since 1933, However, prior to Kristallnacht, these Nazi policies had been primarily nonviolent.
The violence of Kristallnacht served as a wake-up call to German Jews that Nazi anti-Semitism was not a temporary predicament and would only intensify. As a result, many Jews began to plan an escape from their native land.
As for Hate Speech, we see plenty of it on the Twitter and Facebook feeds but Charlottesville was horrifying to see a Nazi like march with torches, shouting, “JEWS WILL NOT REPLACE US”
Sometimes it is what is not said that says everything. At last year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, Trump remembered “the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust” but did not specifically mention Jewish people in the brief statement.
The Anne Frank center response to that was:
“The White House repeatedly refused to mention Jews in its Holocaust remembrance, and had the audacity to take offense when the world pointed out the ramifications of Holocaust denial. And it was only yesterday, Presidents’ Day, that Jewish Community Centers across the nation received bomb threats, and the President said absolutely nothing. When President Trump responds to Antisemitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this President has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”
Trump has refused to denounce David Duke, former head of the KKK. “We are determined to take our country back,” Duke said at the Charlottesville rally, calling it a “turning point.” “We are going to fulfill the promises of donald trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.” Eventually Mike Pence denounced this but Trump never did.
Trump has a history of using Jewish stereotypes. Trump appeared to play on Jewish stereotypes in a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition in December 2015, saying that he wouldn’t get support from the audience because he was too rich to be bought. His comments drew criticism from the National Jewish Democratic Council, which said his remarks were “offensive.”
Trump refused to condemn anti-Semitic vitriol against a Jewish journalist who profiled Melania Trump after his supporters sent the writer death threats. Julia Ioffe, who wrote about the first lady for GQ in April 2016, was subject to anti-Semitic attacks online, including doctored images of her wearing a Holocaust-era Jewish star, and threats that she would be “sent back to the oven.”
In July 2016, Trump also tweeted an image of a six-pointed star next to Hillary Clinton, with money in the background, seen as harkening to Jewish stereotypes and hinting at anti-Semitic views. Trump deleted the tweet, replacing it with an image that used a circle in place of the star, but never apologized for the initial image,
His closing campaign ad railed against “global special interests” and featured images of George Soros, a billionaire investor and philanthropist, and the Federal Reserve chairwoman, Janet Yellen, both of whom are Jewish.
In 2017 there were 163 bomb threats against Jewish Institutions in 2017.
And then came Pittsburgh where a gunman opened fire on those praying at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 and wounding 6 victims. It was the worst attack on Jews in the HISTORY OF THE USA. Trump’s first comments were “they should have had armed guards.”
Incidents in schools on rise. Anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools and college campuses nearly doubled in 2017. Again, according to the ADL, on college campuses, right wing, White Supremicists are growing. The ALT RIGHT is distributing increased numbers of hate filled fliers. According to Amanda Susskind, the Director of the LA ADL, “This year’s audit reveals the continued use of disparaging comments directed to Jewish students,”. “Even for those of us who deal with hateful language on a daily basis, statements such as ‘go back to concentration camp’ and ‘go back to oven’ are particularly disturbing. And since students do not always report they are being bullied, it’s likely that these kind of vicious comments are more prevalent than we know.”
What can we do?
Congress should pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The House of Representatives approved this legislation, HR 1730, in December 2017. The Mitch McConnell Senate still has not acted on this! Tell the Senate to act and send the measure to the President to sign.
Public officials and law enforcement authorities must use their bully er. We too must use our voices wherever possible. Facebook frames such as the one after Pittsburgh – saying “together against anti- Semitism” is effective. it visually tells all that we must stand up against hatred. When social media can be a megaphone for hate, It can also be a method to isolate and delegitimize social evil.
Victims and bystanders should report all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to the Anti-Defamation League and to local police. If we expect law enforcement officials and community members to take these incidents seriously, we must take them seriously – and report them, both to ADL and to the police.
College and university administrators, faculty, and staff must receive the necessary training to effectively respond to anti-Semitic incidents, hate crimes, hate speech, and extremism on campus. Campus officials have a moral obligation to speak out against hate. Colleges and universities must build an institution for learning that works toward inclusion and equity while also ensuring open expression and a marketplace for ideas.
Finally, vote them out!