As a Jewish person, and simply as a girl who loves dancing to today’s pop hits, I love attending Bat and Bar Mitzvah services and parties. These fun-filled events, however, came with a rude awakening. I have always thought that religious services at Temple Emanu-El, my temple, are beautiful. With pieces of gold glinting from the walls, the elegant Eternal Light hanging delicately from the high ceiling and natural light floating through the jewel-toned stained glass windows, Olan Sanctuary is home to some of my fondest memories, including my own and many other Bat Mitzvah services.
The non-Jewish girls in my grade, however, saw none of this architectural or spiritual beauty as they “endured” service after service in Olan and other sanctuaries like it. All they gathered from the experience was how strange the Rabbis’ shawls and yarmulkes looked and how funny the Hebrew prayers sounded. These girls did not keep their opinions to themselves, and thus I dreaded every Monday morning at school following a Bat or Bar Mitzvah. Other Jewish girls and I reluctantly smiled along as our classmates sang distorted Hebrew in our faces, laughing and asking us if they “got it right,” never knowing that the prayer that they mocked was the equivalent of the Lord’s Prayer in the Christian faith.
From a young age, my fellow Jews and I were indirectly taught that Judaism was something to be made fun of, not a religion that deserved respect. It is this recurring theme, mockery of Judaism, that causes us to dismiss modern anti-Semitism. Discrimination against people of Jewish faith, often including violence, is a relevant and serious issue around the world, and these offenses deserve recognition.
Before I continue, I would like to address the obvious issue with my previous statement: yes, most Jews are white. In fact, 80 percetn of Jews in the United States are white. I do not mean to liken the plight of Jews and the plight of other, non-white minorities; most Jews have the advantage of being able to remove their yarmulkes and Star of David necklaces and blend in with the majority group. That being said, a mere 0.2 percent of the world is Jewish and anti-Semitism is often referred to as “the longest hatred.”
This hatred, dating back to the crucifixion of Christ, continues today and is only getting stronger.
Queens, New York. Wearing traditional Jewish clothing, two Jews were shot with BB guns. Worse yet, this violent assault occurred during the 2015 Jewish High Holy Days.
Boca Raton, Florida. A passerby yelled, “Jews should go back to Auschwitz. Hitler was right” at a rabbinical student then proceeds to beat him and slam his head into the pavement.
University of California Davis. On the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Jews from Auschwitz, Jewish fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi found swastikas spray-painted on the outside of their house.
These violent and discriminatory events are just three out of 941 anti-Semitic harassments, vandalisms, threats and assaults across the United States in 2015. This figure has risen from 912 events in 2014, and, I believe, with the recent election, this number will only continue to grow.
President-elect Donald Trump’s victory validated the far-right and often homophobic, racist, xenophobic and misogynistic views of his supporters. His victory let that silent majority know that they were in fact a majority and thus inspired them to speak out.
One of the most relevant Trump supporters that has stood up and spoken out is Dallas’s own Richard Spencer, the father of the alt-right movement.
At the end of his speech at the alt-right National Policy Institute, Spencer ignited the crowd, shouting, “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” Even more disturbing than the similarity in both sound and intent that these words have to the infamous “Heil Hitler,” many impassioned audience members responded with a Nazi salute.
Old habits die hard, and anti-Semitism is sadly one of the world’s oldest. The first step to quitting anything, however, is acceptance. We must recognize anti-Semitic events; only then will “the longest hatred” stop getting longer.
Commentaries are the expressed opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect that of The Fourcast staff, its adviser or any member of the Hockaday community.
– Ali Hurst – Asst. Castoff Editor