Letter to the Editor: It’s not anti-Semitism, it’s anti-humanity

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To the Editor:

On March 9th, a Letter to the Editor was published about the recent rise of anti-Semitic attacks across the country. I agree with the author: Cemeteries being desecrated and Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) being threatened are serious hate crimes. I agree that action should be taken. However, I disagree that this is specifically a Jewish issue; this is a democratic issue. A response to the anti-Semitism rampant in 19th-century Europe, Zionism is a movement for the creation of and return to a Jewish state. When the author of the Letter to the Editor cited Zionism as the answer to anti-Semitism in America, they implied that Jews should flee to Israel instead of standing their ground to protect themselves. Escaping into a Jewish enclave is not productive. To find a solution, the rise of anti-Semitic attacks should be viewed within a broader context.

Anti-Semitism is one of many forms of bigotry used to assuage the fears of the masses. What do these masses fear? Economic instability, social inferiority, anything that threatens their lifestyles and livelihoods. When fearing decline, these masses voted for a “populist” leader, one who will reclaim the glory of the country and the people. By voting for this man, these masses cling to the past and anything that excuses themselves of responsibility for their own decline. The leader turns out to further undermine the people who voted for him. At their most vulnerable time, he exploits them to satisfy his own way of life. When his voters become more impoverished and more disgruntled due to his antics, he hides. Where does he hide? Behind the “other.” Who is the “other?” Those who do not look like him, act like him, or agree with him; those who do not share the same values or culture as him. Does he physically hide? No, he hides through silence. When 100 bomb threats were called in within the past month, this leader said nothing. When an Indian man in Kansas was murdered and a Sikh man in Washington was wounded and told to “go back to their country,” the leader said nothing. When students from the University of Pennsylvania were exposed as threatening the lynchings of their Black peers, the leader, an alum of this University, did not condemn this action. When seven transgender women were murdered this year, did the leader release a statement? No.

If the so-called leader will not speak out against hate crimes, then who will? The hated. Who are the hated? You. By encasing yourself within a community, whether physical or virtual, of those who share similar identities, you become someone else’s “other.” The leader knows this. He wants us to stay within these groups; it is his way of dividing us. Being divided is what allows him to maintain power.

How do we break the divides? By identifying beyond a specific race, religion, ethnicity, or gender. No matter whether you are Black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, cisgender, or transgender, you are human. Although the author of this letter meant well, imploring for Jews to take action against anti-Semitic hate crimes plays into this divide. I myself am Jewish, yet I do not think of hate crimes against Jews as exclusive to our community. When I think of the Holocaust, do I think of it strictly within Jewry? No. I think of the Holocaust as one of many genocides committed by populist leaders who divided their people into an “us” and “them,” and allowed through the complicity of those who hoped they were not the “them.” When I see another news story about a hate crime, when I hear sexual harassment on the bus, when I hear my friends talk about not being able to use the bathroom of their choice, I do not think of it as their problem. I think of it as my problem.

As a member of humanity every hate crime is a crime against you. As a participant of a democracy, every hate crime is a crime against your liberties. Each hate crime should be treated with equal importance and reacted to with equal diligence.

Rebecca Duke Wiesenberg