This 2024 - Let's Win the Battle of Headlines

The shades of antisemitism

If we desire genuine change, it's crucial for the masses to proudly and adamantly raise their voices.

U.S. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx attends the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 6, 2019. Credit: John Bauld via Wikimedia Commons.
U.S. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx attends the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, Canada, Sept. 6, 2019. Credit: John Bauld via Wikimedia Commons.
Jeff Seidel. Source: Facebook.
Jeff Seidel
Jeff Seidel is a prominent figure in the Jewish world, introducing thousands of students to Shabbat, giving free tours and classes through his Jewish Student Centers across Israel, and welcoming all to Israel. He is the author of The Jewish Traveler’s Resource Guide.

For so many of us, our lives are dedicated to imparting our rich history, values and traditions of the Jewish people to the next generation. Yet a disheartening trend has reared its ugly head back into our lives, challenging the core of our work and the safety of Jewish communities. The vile and persistent form of hatred that we’ve been battling since the beginning of time has seen a frightening uptick worldwide. While terrified of the answer, I must pose the question: Are we heading towards a war of antisemitism?

The most recent headlines have been chilling, albeit unsurprising. Specifically, headlines about high-profile individuals engaging in antisemitic rhetoric, either intentionally or negligently. Actor Jamie Foxx shared a post on social media that carelessly perpetuated an age-old damaging stereotype: That Jews were collectively responsible for the killing of Jesus. Foxx later apologized for the post, stating that his intent was not to offend but to express his feelings of betrayal by a “fake friend.” But the harm was already done. His actions ignited a surge of antisemitic rhetoric from users across social media.

The incident caused quite a controversy, with prominent figures like Jennifer Aniston facing backlash for liking the post. The situation underscores the influence celebrities wield over their millions of followers and the potential for such platforms to propagate harmful stereotypes. It also sparks a serious debate about the responsibility of celebrities and influencers in addressing matters of hate and bias on their platforms. Undoubtedly, those with such influential platforms must handle them with care, as their messages have the potential to sway public opinion and, in some cases, provoke hateful actions.

Overseas, the news isn’t any more comforting. In Sweden, it wasn’t just an individual’s malicious intent that was concerning. The government itself granted permission for a woman to hold a public gathering in Stockholm during which she intended to burn a Bible outside the Israeli embassy. This act is a direct attack on one of the most fundamental symbols of our religion and a stark illustration of the normalization of hate speech and antisemitic action. It also evokes unsettling memories of Kristallnacht, when Jewish establishments were viciously attacked and sacred artifacts desecrated. Are we witnessing history repeating itself?

Educational institutions are also under scrutiny for seemingly promoting biased, antisemitic narratives. Not long ago, it was reported that a course at Princeton University includes a book in its syllabus called The Right to Maim by Jasbir Puar, which alleges that the IDF harvests Palestinian organs. Puar, a Rutgers University professor, has consistently accused Israel of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians. This academic selection raises concerns over the propagation of biased narratives within educational settings—a place where minds are shaped and worldviews are formed.

These developments certainly have implications for Israel. Antisemitism in its many forms can very easily lead to greater global isolation for Israel, potentially affecting diplomatic relations, economic partnerships and geopolitical alliances. Antisemitism can also manifest as violence against Jewish individuals, both in Israel and globally.

Where is the public outcry? It’s glaringly evident that when discrimination targets other groups, the response is immediate, with an uproar reverberating across news outlets and public platforms. What is alarming to me is the deafening silence from other marginalized groups and allies when Jews are at the receiving end of prejudice. These communities, which know all too well the bitter sting of discrimination and hate, always seem to be absent in defending the Jewish people.

When other communities are targeted, we often see a broad spectrum of global support rallying to their defense. This sense of universal solidarity, however, always seems to go missing when Jews face persecution. Why? Is it that ingrained biases cloud judgment? Or is it an unfortunate symptom of a world that has repeatedly turned its back on the Jewish community throughout history?

If we desire genuine change, it’s crucial for the masses to proudly and adamantly raise their voices, as it is often the persistent calls of the people that spur world leaders into action. It is only when leaders see their constituents fervently fighting for a cause that they are more inclined to step in and enact change. The fight against discrimination and hatred should never be selective, and it begins with each of us speaking up and standing firm.

What does all of this mean for us as Jewish educators and community leaders? We must remain vigilant in the face of these rising tides of antisemitism, countering the hatred at every juncture. We need to use our platforms, be they classrooms, social circles or public forums, to spread awareness and fight hate. Additionally, we must do what we can to ensure that individuals, institutions and nations take responsibility for the part they play in perpetuating this form of hate. Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem; it is a global problem. Fighting it requires global awareness, understanding and, most crucially, action.

So, will we descend into another world war fueled by antisemitism? It was precisely such rampant and unchecked antisemitism that played a significant role in the lead-up to the Holocaust, so who’s to say that these currents won’t steer us towards a similar catastrophe now?

As a proud American, Israeli and member of the Jewish community, I truly hope this will not be the case. But it remains our collective responsibility to ensure this hope for victory against hate becomes a reality. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to prepare the next generation for the world they’re inheriting. We must equip them with the knowledge and resilience to face these issues head-on. It is through awareness, education and unequivocal opposition to hate that we can prevent a catastrophic future.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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