By: Sruli Fruchter  | 

The Hate Not Taken Seriously

“Hi, my name is Anon,” said the 27-year-old German terrorist, “and I think the Holocaust never happened. Feminism is the cause of the decline of the West which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration. And the root of all these problems is the Jew. Would you like to be friends?”

This past Yom Kippur, Oct. 9, the terrorist shared this in his 35-minute video over the game streaming platform Twitch; he was driving to a synagogue in Halle, Germany, hoping to perpetrate his plan of massacring Jews.

According to reports, armed with a shotgun and homemade explosives, the white supremacist failed to enter the locked synagogue and instead shot and killed 40-year-old Jana Lange, a music-loving passerby who had reprimanded him for making so much noise. Soon after, he rerouted to a nearby kebab shop and shot and killed 20-year-old Kevin S., a construction worker eating his lunch.

When I first heard the news, I was drinking a glass of water, quenching my thirst after the Yom Kippur fast. I listened as my friend scrolled and read from his iPhone, relaying the known details of the horrific attack. I found myself emotionally paralyzed, left completely numb to yet another display of anti-Semitism. This was not an isolated incident, but merely a sample of the growing hatred in the global petri dish of anti-Semitism.

CNN reported in September that “as a whole, anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York City are up 63% this year as compared with last year.”

In its 2018 general analysis on worldwide anti-Semitism, Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center reported, “The countries with the highest number of cases are the US (over 100 cases), the UK (68), France and Germany (35 each).” 

How are we supposed to feel? As Jews, our tragedies always seem to take the backseat to other conversations, whitewashing our trauma and our fear. Was it not even a year ago when 11 Jews were gunned down in the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting? Yet the real threats facing worldwide Jewry are dismissed and excused.

We need not look much further than the Jewish community in the tri-state area to see the vibrant presence of anti-Semitism affecting even Yeshiva University. Two months ago, The Commentator reported that the Vanguard News Network (VNN), a white supremacist platform, had published photos of hundreds of former and current YU faculty members and students.

VNN’s forum includes chatrooms where users discuss their anti-Semitic sentiments. Blood libels are consistently referenced, describing Jews as rat-like or blood-thirsty beings. Some of the website’s popular tags include “Jewish nose” and “Jews inbreeding.” The Commentator also reported that “one user on the forum called the international Hillel organization ‘a group of Jewish supremacist thugs,’ and another referred to a Holocaust survivor as an ‘alleged Shlomocaust survivor.’”

It feels like anti-Semitism is lurking right outside my home.

Let us not forget Columbia University’s disconcerting invitation to Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to speak at its recent World Leaders Forum on Sept. 25, 2019. Though Mohamad had previously peddled anti-Semitic rhetoric — describing Jews as “hook-nosed” and claiming that they “rule the world by proxy” — Columbia University President Lee Bollinger defended the university’s decision. Despite significant student backlash, Bollinger insisted that “to abandon this activity would be to limit severely our capacity to understand and confront the world as it is, which is a central and utterly serious mission for any academic institution.”

In her opening remarks at the event, Vishakha Desai disavowed Mohamad’s anti-Semitic views on behalf of the university. Nonetheless, in the midst of a question and answer session at the forum, Mohamad defended his past comments, asking the audience, “Why is it that I can’t say something against the Jews?” Moreover, after denying ever questioning how many Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, he proceeded to do just that, parroting the claims of Holocaust deniers. By welcoming Mohamad to its World Leaders Forum, Columbia University provided a platform for an influential anti-Semite to express his hateful views. In doing so, the university implicitly validated his hateful rhetoric, isolating Jewish students in the process.

Had another public figure associated with a racist ideology been invited, wouldn’t the university backtrack upon such student backlash? Could it defend giving a microphone to hate speech with an appeal to the “utterly serious mission” of the university? Would such a figure ever be invited in the first place?

Hateful expressions against Jews never seem to be seen in the same light as those against other minorities; the crossroads of intersectionality always seem to pass over us, excluding us from practically every demand for change.

Anti-Semitism has become a cliché, viewed as an exaggerated complaint or a mere talking point. We must acknowledge it; we cannot deny the rising tide of anti-Semitism or pretend that it will just go away. Jewish history has shown that when people say they want to kill Jews, we need to believe them. Anti-Semitism cannot stand alone; it must be taken seriously. As a Jew, I don’t want to feel safer; I want to be safer.