Wake up Deerfield: Anti-Semitism isn’t dead!

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Wake up Deerfield: Anti-Semitism isn’t dead!

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I went to see our school’s production of The Diary of Anne Frank earlier this month, and it seems this play could not have been any more timely. Anne Frank was a Jew originally from Germany during the time of the Holocaust. Spending nearly two years in hiding in an Amsterdam attic along with seven other people, Anne kept a diary of her experiences and feelings during this time. Though Anne unfortunately did not survive the Holocaust, the experiences from her diary live on. When World War II ended it seemed that the persecution of Jewish people would also end, yet now, seventy-some years later, there has been a huge spike in anti-Semitism.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, an international Jewish organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, it was reported that anti-Semitism in the United States rose nearly 60% from 2016 to 2017 alone. Jewish cemeteries are being vandalized, hundreds of bomb threats are being made towards Jewish temples and institutions, white nationalist marches are taking place nationwide, and even a mass shooting in a synagogue are some examples of the hate that Jewish people are experiencing in America. So where does all this hate come from? Why is this all being exposed now?

First, Jewish people have done nothing to deserve the anti-Semitism and hate they’re enduring. Under no circumstances is it ever OK to use violence as a form of retaliation, self-expression, or act of hatred. The Holocaust was a heinous mass genocide that should never be looked upon as anything more than vile. Following the incidents in Charlottesville, Virginia, our country faced a rude awakening back into the arms of anti-Semitism. No offense Mr. President, but people shouting “Jews will not replace us” don’t exactly make me think that there are “very fine” people in that group. Less than a month ago, an anti-Semitic, white nationalist mass shooter stormed into a Pittsburgh synagogue murdering eleven people, and injuring many more.

Turning hatred into violence has unfortunately become common these past few years. I constantly find myself wondering why the Jewish community faces this constant violence. I don’t have an answer to that, but I do have an answer to where I believe this hate is coming from. President Trump has been condoning white nationalism through statements about how there were “very fine people on both sides” at the Charlottesville riot. Referring to the migrant caravan travelling from Honduras to the US/Mexico border, the President said, “You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people. These are animals.” President Trump even tweeted, “Get that son-of-a-bitch off the field right now” about (predominantly African-American) NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in a peaceful protest against police brutality. Condoning white nationalism has deadly consequences. Politics on the other hand are also another cause to all this hate. Right before every big election, and the midterms were no exception, there are hundreds of ads run all over media. Though there are a few reasonable ads, most of those ads consist of calling people names, and placing criminal agendas on one another.  Dehumanizing political opponents is not a new strategy, however, it has a very detrimental outcome.

But where does a 17 year old high school student fit into all of this? Just a couple of weeks ago a 39 year-old man was arrested for threatening the Central Avenue Synagogue in Highland Park—the town right next to Deerfield. After all the horrible massacres, rallies, and threats, this one struck a lot closer to home. Luckily no one was hurt, and the police were able to take care of this situation before anything happened. However, not everyone is that lucky. Hundreds of people all across America are becoming victims of violence, but Jews in particular seem to be a large portion of victims. The thing about living in Deerfield is we don’t really experience much of that anti-Semitism.

Deerfield is a town with a large population of Jewish people, and so spending my whole life here has given me a false sense of security. When I was younger I only knew about anti-Semitism based on what my parents told me about their experiences. It was thanks to the story my mom told me about rushing her at college to be in a sorority, and someone asked her “where are your horns,” that I understood not everyone likes Jewish people. It was a year or two later after that I learned about the Holocaust in school for the first time. In that moment I understood for sure that there were people who didn’t like Jewish people. Despite being aware of this, I never personally experienced anti-Semitism.

But then just over a year ago, hundreds of white supremacists and white nationalists rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia and chanted, “Jews will not replace us, you will not replace us,” and the Nazi-associated phrase “blood and soil” as they marched through the streets with torches in their hands and hate in their hearts. Despite being states away, I was terrified and even worried to let anyone know that I was a Jew. This “Deerfield bubble” that had been insulting me my whole life was popped in an instant, and it hasn’t come back since.

There’s a whole world outside of Deerfield. A world that’s filled with hate, violence, prejudice, and anti-Semitism. I’m not saying we should live our lives in fear, but I am saying that we must realize and address this issue of hatred we sadly have to face. The Deerfield bubble is something we need to acknowledge.

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