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Opinion: Anti-Semitism is on the rise, Americans need to be aware

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Sundown tonight marks the beginning of Passover, the Jewish observance of the exodus from Egyptian slavery documented in the Torah. So as we sit down around our Seders, the highly ordered meal that marks the beginning of the holiday, I have to wonder: Are we really safe now?

Last week, OU saw the resurgence of white nationalist pamphlets around campus. The day the pamphlets went up I got a text from one of my Jewish friends, making sure that I knew the OU Police Department had been informed, but that I should take the posters down if I saw them. If that doesn’t represent the national indifference toward Judaism, I don’t know what does.

Anti-Semitic Flier

One of the anti-Semitic fliers found hanging on campus in April 2017. The myths surrounding Jewish wealth stem from the 12th century. 

These fliers represent a growing national apprehension in the Jewish community. In 2016 and 2017, the Jewish community has seen bomb threats on over 80 Jewish community centers. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. Eighty-four percent of Americans think the government needs to be combating anti-Semitism, but in the ideological division over Israel, American Jews are forgotten or lumped together while our safety at home deteriorates. 

It’s startling to see the gradual way anti-Semitism has taken hold of the country, and even more startling to see the way no one cares. It’s one thing when the anti-Semitism is contained to local fliers — it’s another thing when a large part of the government supports a similar ideology.

Much of the anti-Semitic discourse has been sparked by the “alt-right” — or as Jewish people know them, neo-Nazis. If you delve into the comment section on any given Breitbart article, you’ll see that “Jewish” has become a derogatory term, thrown around like “commie.” 

To address the fliers directly, Jews don’t control the world’s money. That particular myth has been around since the 12th century when the Catholic Church condemned “usury” or money lending. Since Jewish people were already banned from most other types of business, they took over the business of money lending and Catholics immediately hated them because usury made more money than farming. 

Since then, society has forgotten this key bit of history. This makes the myth of Jewish wealth a prime target for the anti-Semitic “alt-right,” and gives them a way to make Jewish people the villains in a national narrative.    

Stories like this make Jewish people so anxious. If we’re seeing myths from the 12th century pop up again, we know that there are parts of the public that are once again turning to anti-Semitism to explain their problems.

No money? That's because the Jews have it all. No work? That's because the Jews control the government and they're not handing out jobs. It cycles around until you get to questions like, "Are Jews People?" — an actual topic discussed on CNN. 

Jewish history is littered with cases like this, where an anti-Semitic rhetoric comes to have great power locally and in the government. Jewish people see it happening again all over Europe

What you need to do now is listen to Jewish Americans. The way this hatred has historically taken root is when Jews are made to be an “othered” group, viewed as inherently different from dominant society.

So befriend a Jewish person. Make yourself known as an ally. The only way to fight anti-Semitism is to educate on issues in the Jewish community, because the "alt-right" preys on ignorance and fear.

Together, we must show the "alt-right" that we are not afraid and will stand our ground. We aren’t “sneaky,” and we aren’t “greedy,” but we need space in the national discussion of minorities facing oppression to show people who American Jews are and what challenges we face.       

Egypt was centuries ago, but tonight, to celebrate the first night of Passover, consider reaching out to the Jewish community to show your support. Help us tear down the fliers and put up something kinder. Let your voice be heard on behalf of American Jews. We might even save a seat for you at the Seder.

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