Alex Sternberg
A Jewish Activist

Never again, again?

Jews are under worldwide attack, again. Many believe that it’s an outcry against Israel’s response to the Hamas atrocities of Oct 7. But I am not sure that Israel’s counterattack is the reason.

Jew-hatred is not new. It has followed us in our two thousand years of persecution driving us from country to country. Ours is a well-known history of suffering and persecution.
After the liberation of the death camps in Poland in 1945, we received a short-term reprieve, as even the most virulent anti-Semites realized that the time was simply not ripe for their hatred. Too many fresh memories told by too many death camp survivors. Jew hatred was temporarily not “politically correct.” But the respite from the world’s oldest hatred was short-lived.

Antisemitism was revived immediately after the State of Israel was created, by the angry Arab States, frustrated by their inability to complete the work of Adolf Hitler. Haj Amin Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem and the father of Palestinian nationalism was an early advocate of wiping the Jews off the face of the earth. He did all he could to realize this dream, plotting with his friend Adolf Hitler from Berlin.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI concluded Vatican II and issued its controversial document ending the Church’s two-thousand-year campaign blaming Jews for the crucifixion of Jesus. Many believe that it was this campaign that paved the road to Auschwitz. Jews rejoiced, thinking that the corner on worldwide anti-Semitism had been turned. But it was not to be.

But antisemitism never really disappeared, it just went underground to be resurrected when the time was ripe.

It appears that the time has arrived. Aided by huge investments of Iranian petrodollars, billions funded by the Obama and Biden administrations, anti-Israel voices have infiltrated most US university campuses. Led by progressive professors, who occupy many university positions, these voices have been preaching a steadily growing anti-Israel/Jewish narrative. They seeded the ground with hate that ripened at the right time.

Jews are not surprised that antisemitism exists. We knew that it never really disappeared. Our disappointment and our disillusionment lie in our long-standing belief that America is the one place on earth where we are safe. Many hoped that our ship that sailed through so many stormy seas had finally reached a safe harbor. Recently, three prestigious university presidents dashed our beliefs by unequivocally announcing that calls for our annihilation may be OK if presented in the proper “context.”

My parents were both Holocaust survivors, managing to survive Auschwitz and Bergen Belsen. Their families, my family, were annihilated. In 1961, they realized their lifelong ambition, sailing into NY harbor under the welcoming gaze of Lady Liberty. Growing up, they told me often why they came to America: It was so my brother and I could grow up as Orthodox Jews in the land of Liberty and get a university education, something that was denied to my mother in fascist Hungary. While American Jews take for granted the possibility of the “American Dream,” for those of us who came from Europe, this dream was what sustained us.

And this same dream came crashing down in that congressional hearing room last week.

If the most educated institutions can equivocate in providing Jews the protection of the vaunted constitution, then this country, promising all the freedoms against unwarranted persecution based on creed and religion, may not be such a safe harbor after all.

My mother was enrolled in University in Hungary in the early 1930s. But Hungarian fascists would have none of it. Angry, loud, and threatening mobs beat Jewish students to force them to quit. Not wanting to get beaten, my mother also quit. Looking at the videos of the hateful hordes in Harvard freely surrounding, menacing Jewish students, and threatening them was just too reminiscent of my mother’s experience.

Has this ugly part of Jewish history followed us and finally arrived in the land of the “free?”

The pain endured by our parents was tattooed onto their arms as an everlasting reminder. It reminded them that they stood alone. No one rose to protect them. For millions of American Jews, the fear (echoed by my father all his life) that it could happen EVEN here, has been tattooed into their soul. For sure, many buried it deep, never to speak of it aloud. It is this fear that surfaced in so many Jewish bosoms after that unfortunate congressional testimony.
It is a painful reckoning for many who fervently hoped that America would be different. That it could never happen here. It is gut-wrenching when your dreams are shattered.

About the Author
Born in Hungary, emigrated to the US in 1961. USA Karate Champion and sensei. Jewish activist, and leader of JDL. Doctor of Physiology and Public Health (SUNY College of Medicine), was the Director of the Pulmonary Function and Exercise Physiology Lab at Downstate Medical Center. President Center for Hungarian Holocaust Education. Author and teacher of Zionism, Jewish history, and the Holocaust MaccabiUSA Karate Chair over 40 years, “Legend of the Maccabiah” recipient 2018. Inductee Jewish Sports Heritage Ass. 2024 USA Karate Federation Hall of Fame inductee 2015 Author of "Recipes from Auschwitz-The Survival Stories of Two Hungarian Jews with Historical Insight". Amazon. Author: "The Toughest Jew in Brooklyn" in progress