A Hateful Hanukkah: Where Do We Go From Here?

February 12, 2021
Luisa David

Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Class of 2021

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In 2019, the world saw an all-time high in antisemitic attacks around the world, the United States getting the most media coverage on it out of all countries. We were all on high alert, scared and saddened, and some of us were not surprised since every year the rate of antisemitic hate crimes seems to surpass the rate of the previous year. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in 2019 there were 2,100 attacks of vandalism, harassment, and assault in the United States alone. 

COVID-19 caused Jews around the world to hold Channukah in quarantine far from their loved ones, but the pandemic did not stop the anti-Jewish hate crimes. There were multiple attacks on each of the 8 days of the chag around the world. These included the hacking of a Long Island Jewish school’s website where images of swastikas and antisemitic slurs were published. A Jewish man and his son were threatened in Miami Beach. One of the oldest synagogues in Plovdiv, Bulgaria was vandalized. A Forest Hill, Queens was daubed with antisemitic graffiti. A bronze statue of Anne Frank in Boise, Idaho was maliciously damaged. And a man in The Netherlands was arrested after painting swastikas on a mosque and two synagogues.

Sadly, the list goes on and on. It reminds us that, regardless of where we live, even at a time that brings us all together, we remain vulnerable. Apart from the devastation of the pandemic, 2020 was an exceptionally shocking time for the  Jewish people. 

As members of BBYO, we need to make it our mission to fight back, to raise awareness, and educate others about antisemitism within and without the Jewish community. Racism, bigotry, and antisemitism thrive on ignorance,  and there are 3 key things that we can all do to  actively combat it:

  1. Educate your peers

You may have heard a friend or acquaintance make an off-color remark or a comment that was antisemitic. Give them the benefit of the doubt: assume they are simply unaware and explain why what they said was wrong. Make it a teaching moment. When this happened to me, I was quick to point out why the thing they had said was antisemitic and hurtful. As a result, I immediately got an apology.

  1. Push schools to teach students about antisemitism

In the United States, only 16 states insist on Holocaust Education being a part of the secondary school curriculum. The remaining 34 treat it as an optional additive or fail to offer it at all. Push for Holocaust education to be taught in schools. Regardless of where we live, it is essential that people learn about this painful period in human history. Write letters to your school board, ask witnesses, survivors, and their children to come to your school. Share resources with your peers, and educate those around you. 

  1. Discuss the subject with your chapter

BBYO may seem like friendly turf for a discussion about antisemitism, but there’s always something to learn. Beyond the horrific realities of the Holocaust, have conversations on the incredible acts of bravery and heroism. Watch classic films like The Wave and Skokie, or documentaries like Eyes of the Storm. Read about the Milgram Experiment and discuss its implications.

Luisa is a BBG from BBYO Australia and is a pro at switching languages between sentences.

All views expressed on content written for The Shofar represent the opinions and thoughts of the individual authors. The author biography represents the author at the time in which they were in BBYO.

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