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Jew Hatred

 At Shabbat services this past Friday evening at Temple Adas Israel in Sag Harbor, New York, Rabbi Dan Geffen chose a passage from the prayer book by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel for the congregation to read together.

“We are a people in whom the past endures, In whom the present is inconceivable without moments gone by. The Exodus lasted a moment, a moment enduring forever. What happened once upon a time happens all the time.”

There could be no more appropriate time than now as antisemitism oozes out in pro-Palestinian, pro-Hamas protests. Never in my lifetime have I seen this level of Jew hatred. I was born in 1942 at a time when all my relatives in Europe were being murdered by the Nazis.

“Kill the Jews,” was a shout coming out of a demonstration last month at Northeastern University in Boston. The Washington Post quoted Renata Nyal, vice president for communications at the school, saying: “Last night, the use of virulent antisemitic slurs, including ‘Kill the Jews,’ crossed the line. We cannot tolerate this kind of hate on our campus.”

“How pervasive is antisemitism on US campuses? A look at the language of the protests,” was the headline this month of an article in the Guardian newspaper that was datelined New York. At Columbia University, “It’s hard to deny that there have been antisemitic incidents on the campus,” wrote Chris McGreal. He reported on the “targeting of students, probably Jewish” with such taunts as “go back to Poland.” He quoted Gil Zussman, a Jewish professor at Columbia, an Israeli, saying, “It’s like, we will kill you because you are Israeli or Jewish.” The article continued: “The university suspended one of the protest leaders, Khymani James, after video emerged of him saying in January that “Zionists don’t deserve to live” and “Be grateful that I’m not just going out and murdering Zionists.”

“After James’s remarks were made public,” related McGreal, “university officials wrote to Columbia students denouncing antisemitism as threatening safety. ‘Chants, signs, taunts and social media posts from our students that mock and threaten to ‘kill’ Jewish people are totally unacceptable, and Columbia students who are involved in such incidents will be held accountable.”

The Guardian piece also spoke of Dana Bash of CNN “likening the situation on US campuses to antisemitism in 1930s Europe. ‘The fear among Jews in this country is palpable right now,’ she said.” Bash lost relatives in the Holocaust.

“The mood on campus these days,” said The New York Times, quoting Max Strozenberg, “is not pro-Palestinian, it’s antisemitic.” He is a Jewish student at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. “The meaning of the many demonstrations—like the one that rattled Mr. Strozenberg—is bitterly contested,” said the article. “Pro-Palestinian students say that they are speaking up for a marginalized, oppressed people living in Gaza. But critics say that many of the slogans and protests have careened into support for terrorism and antisemitism.”

One does not need to be a “critic” to see that virulent antisemitism is happening.

“The antisemitic mask is off,” said the headline of a blog on The Times of Israel this month by Rachel Lester. “I was optimistic to the point of naïve for the first several days of these US-wide college campus protests. I thought that the vast majority of the student protestors were either righteously standing up for a cause they believed in—with the way the media is portraying the war in Gaza, who can blame the average American 19-year-old for wanting a ceasefire?—or simply jumping in on the current trendy movement. I viewed most of these protesters as, at best, fairly well-meaning bleeding-hearts who were tragically misinformed about Israel, plus the crazy extremist outliers…..But these protests turned from pro-Palestinian-with-a-side-of-anti-Israel to full-on antisemitic at an almost alarming rate.”

She went on about how “the mask is off now, and it feels like there’s no going back. I was giving speeches in various synagogues in LA advocating for people to stop calling social media posts that go against our narrative ‘antisemitic,’ because I thought, odds are, the person is misinformed and well-intentioned. This week, I did a ‘180,’ and, as an outlet for my frustration, I made a parody song about the protesters…where my chorus goes, ‘You hate Jews/all types/antisemite.’” Lester ended her blog with “it’s better to know what we’re dealing with.”

As David Suissa, publisher and editor-in-chief of Tribe Media/Jewish Journal has written about when “Jew haters in Europe prepared to take” the Jews of Europe “to their deaths, all six million of them. Those Jews also had an enormous need to defend themselves—but zero power to do so. If there’s such a thing as an afterlife, I can imagine six million Jewish souls in heaven right now smiling at the feistiness of their descendants. Feisty we are. Whether in Israel or in the Diaspora, we are no longer weak. We are no longer invisible. We are no longer silent. Everywhere there are threats, we see assertive Jews defending their people, whether through institutional gatherings, civic activism, social media, legal initiatives, street rallies, philanthropic involvement….”

He quoted Jonathan Greenblatt, head of the Anti-Defamation League: “The world of October 8 is one in which the perpetrators of the worst antisemitic massacre since the Holocaust are celebrated as heroes—not just in Ramallah or Beirut, but in London and New York and on campuses, including Harvard and Columbia.”

Suissa wrote that “the bad news is that there’s a greater need to defend ourselves, but the good news is that all around us are signs of our ability to do just that.”

“What happened once upon a time happens all the time,” as Heschel said.

Or, as we read from the Passover Haggadah last month, “in every generation they rise to destroy us.” It’s been going on, over and over again, for millennia. We must stand strong. 

About the Author
Karl Grossman is a professor of journalism at the State University of New York at Old Westbury who has specialized in investigative reporting for more than 50 years. He is the host of the TV program “Enviro Close-Up with Karl Grossman,” (http://envirovideo.com), the writer and presenter of numerous TV documentaries and author of seven books.
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