We must believe the threats of our enemies, more than the promises of our friends. - Elie Wiesel
On Monday, eight Jewish basketball fans in Brooklyn taught Jews everywhere a powerful lesson. The six kippa-clad guys and two women wore Fight Antisemitism t-shirts courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game and repeatedly called out Kyrie Irving — star player, flat earth believer and Alex Jones fan — for spreading antisemitic misinformation.
At a time when antisemitic acts are exploding in America and going mostly unanswered, they had the guts to get in the face of a high-profile perpetrator — while exposing themselves to possible safety risks — before thousands of others. Even Irving had to acknowledge the bold display, eventually going over to the fans and saying he was “grateful to you guys.”
This has been a rough year for American Jews, to put it mildly. Jews make up about 2.4% of the population and are the victims of more than 60% of all religious hate crimes. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports that antisemitic incidents — defacing synagogues and cemeteries, harassment and physical assaults against Jews — happen multiple times a day and are now at an all-time high.
Hateful actions against Jews are certainly nothing new, but things feel differently these days. For many Jews, antisemitism in America now seems overlooked, tolerated and, even worse, mainstreamed.
Haters with millions of followers have platforms to spew vile antisemitic messages; the outcry against it is far from thunderous. Some Jews have already brought up the topic of leaving America, a sentiment I never heard before.
It feels ominous, like storm clouds are approaching.
So where’s the outrage? We’re a nation that supposedly espouses zero tolerance for hate of any kind. Where are the rallies, protests and petitions in support of Jews? Where are the mass displays of solidarity and loud choruses rejecting antisemitism in any form? Where’s all the big-name celebrities — Hollywood, recording artists, sports stars — and where’s the civic and business leaders and college professors?
Yes, we see some support here and there — and we love our non-Jewish friends — but other than a smattering of people the support we see is hardly overwhelming and actually feels pathetically underwhelming.
Ask yourself — do you feel the power of massive support for Jews in America? I certainly don’t.
Jews are of course not surprised by the indifference to antisemitism. That’s old news — very old news. But aside from sharing articles and emails with like-minded people — essentially just talking to ourselves — the age-old question still remains:
What can we do about it?
Considering that antisemitism is probably the oldest form of ethnic hatred, that’s a tricky question. But that never stopped us from still trying to answer it. Jews have always loved a good challenge, even if it takes thousands of years to solve. We’re a tireless bunch.
And to what extent does Jewish apathy play a role here? Are too many Jews just throwing up their hands and giving in to a life of complacency to antisemitism? Does the task of fighting antisemitism just seem so futile that many are now uninterested in even trying?
Earlier this week, AdinaZ ("Ruining Twitter antisemites since 2009! Proud Jew. I make great coffee ☕️") tweeted:
My fellow Jews, it's time. Let's be the ones marching loudly in the streets. Let it be US flinging banners over interstate guardrails for all to see. Let's get on podcasts, interviews & news reports. Let's publish articles, short stories & biographies. LET'S MOVE SOMETHING, Fam.
CEO Jonathan Greenblatt recently authored the book It Could Happen Here, a riveting chronicle of the rise in antisemitism that makes a frighteningly plausible case that the “unthinkable” can indeed happen in the U.S. The ADL and other committed groups offer a number of actionable steps. At this critical point — now more than ever in America, many would say — a brief sampling of some of these suggestions is in order:
- Monitor and respond to antisemitic incidents and immediately report them to law enforcement. This data allows them to target crime scenes and criminals and develop stronger protective measures.
- Speak out against antisemitic rhetoric, whether it’s to the police, the FBI, lawmakers or the media. Silence, we all know by now, is complicity.
- Educate yourself about antisemitism, especially the “new antisemitism” — the demonization of Israel. The ADL has lots of free and useful information on this, as does AIPAC and Stand With Us.
- Engage Jewish friends and friends of different faiths in conversations about antisemitism.
- Do not tolerate antisemitic jokes and slurs when you hear them. Similarly, speak out against Jews who use hateful speech directed at another ethnic group. We cannot demand respect if we’re not willing to give it.
- Report antisemitic websites to the ADL, who can then work on the site being taken down.
- Engage local school boards to properly educate students on antisemitism. Implore them to embrace Holocaust education and, if possible, arrange for speakers with real-life experiences. The Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills is always willing to help.
- Support political candidates who prioritize the fight against antisemitism.
I would add a few others, based up personal experiences:
- Join and support coalitions between Jews and non-Jews. Jews can’t expect help if we’re not helping others. At the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, with which I’m affiliated, we routinely partner with Christians, Muslims, Hindus and others in programs in order to foster friendships, mutual trust and solidarity in fighting injustice. Our group, the Coalition for Black and Jewish Unity, presents regular joint programs, events and educational opportunities and has fostered lifelong friendships and alliances.
- Financially support groups who fight antisemitism in any amount you can. They all deserve our appreciation and support. The ADL, for example, has been on the front lines of fighting antisemitism for over 100 years and are staffed with passionate people of which we can all be proud. Detroit Regional Director Carolyn Normandin is a true community leader in fighting antisemitism everyday and we should stand behind her and her group’s herculean efforts. A discussion with Carolyn on the shocking things she sees all the time is an extremely sobering experience.
If you’re on Twitter, there are a number of groups and individuals who tweet on a daily basis with important updates on the reality of antisemitism, often accompanied by videos of violent attacks on Jews or swastika painted on Jewish headstones or graffiti like “Kill All Jews” or “Hitler Was Right.” I particularly recommend:
There are countless ways to get educated and active. The Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit is always willing to assist people who wish to become more active, and local synagogues and temples are great resources. Many of them are already doing critical work in this area.
The late Lubavitch Rabbi Schneerson once wrote,
Judaism isn’t about thinking, it’s about doing.
It’s definitely a time for doing. It’s passed time.