Emphasizing Unity to Combat Hate

March 9, 2020
Josh Elkin

Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States

Class of 2022

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I live in a tiny suburb forty minutes outside of Milwaukee. White, Christian, and conservative as it comes, meaningful political discourse is hindered by the lack of diverse perspectives; therefore, it is difficult to talk about antisemitism with my peers. I am a broken record explaining yet again why slurs, jokes, and stereotypes can later perpetuate violence. It is tiring and exhausting. Yet it is a responsibility I bear as one of the only Jews where I live. Living in a small red town also leads to a single exposure to antisemitic behavior, which fits a specific agenda. Antisemitism is perpetuated throughout the political spectrum, but mainstream media emphasizes right-wing antisemitism. After all, it is frequently exemplified through rhetoric and violence from fringe groups, elected officials, and political commentators. In particular, domestic shootings in Pittsburgh, San Diego, Overland Park, and Washington, DC, have been motivated by white supremacy. This pattern has contributed to a narrow perception of how to combat antisemitism. 

December 2019 should be a pivotal month redefining how we approach antisemitism and how we gaslight members of our community. 

The scourge of antisemitism persisted in December, summing a year where stereotypes prevailed, bigotry on college campuses strengthened, and violence impacted countless Jews. Notably, four people were killed at a Kosher market in Jersey City, New Jersey. The assailants had connections with the Black Hebrew Israelites, a hate group claiming they are the real chosen people, and modern Jews are imposters. Not even three weeks later, five Jews were stabbed during a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York. 

Specifically, following Jersey City, media attention was prevalent for a couple of days and quickly subsided. Currently, I am asking myself countless questions all connected to one: how have we instantly ignored Jersey City? After the Pittsburgh shooting, the outcry was enormous. Jews around the United States started feeling the effects of antisemitism. Safety in our synagogues was stripped. Fear rose, and Paranoia escalated. The Jewish community recommitted itself to tackling domestic antisemitism as it became increasingly apparent that this epidemic did not end with the Shoah. And yet, Jersey City passes by with barely a peep today. Was it because the shooting was at a Kosher market, not a synagogue? Was it because the shooting occurred on a Tuesday, not Shabbat, or another holiday? Was it because there were fewer fatalities? Ultimately, I was led to two questions; was it because they were Orthodox, and was it because the terrorists were not white supremacists? Even when the stabbing in Monsey had a significant reaction, not more than a peep has been made following the “No Hate, No Fear” march. 

It is becoming increasingly apparent antisemitism is not confined to one end of the political spectrum; it is ubiquitous. It can be conveyed by anyone, regardless of their views on healthcare, immigration, or guns. It is not rooted in a singular political ideology and is cut from the same cloth, nuanced enough to fit any political agenda. In a political climate as divided as ever, blind partisanship has prompted rejection of antisemitism in left-wing circles. Mere acknowledgment from progressives is quickly countered; after all, left-wing antisemitism in America is not noticeably concomitant with death and violence. But even when as Orthodox Jews in Crown Heights are harassed for being visibly Jewish, the American Jewish psyche quickly brushes off their struggles. 

December 2019. Orthodox Jews killed not by white supremacists, an act of fatal violence still perpetrated by antisemitism. Yet I do not see anything right now. After the No Hate, No Fear March, I see isolation. I do not see our rage escalating, our voices full of pain, our scars forming. I understand the reluctance to continue standing up because the enemy is not always a white supremacist. I see a reluctance to stand up because it uncomfortably challenges political affiliations. Better than anyone else, we should know antisemitism does not confine itself to a partisan label. As our political allies betray us, regardless of where we stand, we are ignoring members of our community. How can we remain passive as our Orthodox brothers and sisters are dying? Antisemitism is not pure; it is complicated. 

In 2020, our American Jewish community needs to recommit itself to tearing down partisan boundaries instead of ignoring one another. When someone talks about the dangers of anti-Zionism and antisemitism perpetuated on the left, do not neglect them. Listen. When someone talks about how President Trump espouses antisemitic stereotypes, do not brush them off. Listen. Do not be lured by blind partisanship. Our country’s increasingly divided tendencies should not reflect in our ability to fight antisemitism. The more we gaslight one another, the less effective we will be in combating the hate that kills us. Because regardless of how it is portrayed or which political agenda it suits, antisemitism is cut from the same cloth. It is united under one common belief. 

Josh Elkin is an Aleph from Wisconsin Region and his favorite band is Florence + The Machine.

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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