Twenty years ago, this writer was convinced that anti-Semitism was a thing of the past. This writer was sure that we were living in a more enlightened world, a more open world, a more understanding world.
I would chuckle to myself when someone from the older generation spoke about anti-Semitism. Old school, I would think.
They were too old to realize that the world has changed.
Still steeped in post-Holocaust thinking.
I firmly believed that the new age of Zionism, fortified by a powerful, democratic, Jewish State of Israel had kicked anti-Semitism far out of the arena of hate that has for so long encircled and enveloped Jews.
For our part, we were now proud Jews, no longer cowering, self-effacing Jews.
As for everyone else, expressing anti-Semitic attitudes or slurs was simply not politically correct. Anti-Semites were not lurking behind every tree and around every corner.
Expressing anti-Jewish attitudes had become unacceptable. Public displays of anti-Jewish behavior was derided, not applauded. It had no place in our society – not officially or unofficially. Certainly not in public and not even in private settings.
Or so this writer thought.
I wrote about it, lectured about it. But that was then, and this is now.
I was so wrong.
Anti-Semitism has come back and come back with a vengeance. It is skyrocketing. Jews know it, they feel it. They felt it even before Kanye West fueled the fires – fires he was able to fuel because they were already burning.
A new study released by the ADL, the Anti Defamation League, documents the rise of this Jew hatred – a term I much prefer over anti-Semitism, with facts and figures. The ADL catalogued last year’s hate infused acts against Jews and the findings are staggering.
In 2022, there were 3.697 reported attacks against Jews or Jewish property. An increase of 36% over 2021. The ADL has been reporting these facts and figures since 1979 and in their 44 years of research and reportage, the numbers have never been higher.
There was a huge spike in bomb threats. White Supremacist attacks against Jews doubled. Attacks on Orthodox Jews increased by 60%.
Scary, for sure.
But not what troubles or scares me the most.
What sends shivers down my spine are the numbers of attacks against schoolkids in grades K through 12. The formative years. The innocent years. The vulnerable years.
In 2022 attacks in K-12 schools increased by 49%.
According to the ADL report, "The 232 incidents of antisemitic vandalism in K-12 schools in 2022 represent a 53% increase from the 152 incidents tabulated in 2021. Of the 232 vandalism cases recorded, swastikas were present in 88% of K-12 school vandalism cases (205 incidents). Vandalism incidents included messages such as 'Kill all Jews,' '6M Oven,' 'Hitler was right' and 'Jews not welcome.'"
The report gave further examples of verbal attacks and samples of graffiti scrawled on walls and doorways and school lockers.
One student was pelted with, "Ew Jew. Why don’t you kill yourself."
In the middle of math class a student shouted, "If anyone celebrates Yom Kippur today, you can die!" Harassment. Bullying. Taunts infused with Holocaust jokes and references.”
Pop culture icon Kanye West may have now backtracked on his hate-filled diatribes against Jews, but the damage he did is explosive — and, I dare say, will continue to have an overwhelming influence and impact on Jew haters well into the future.
The ADL reports that, "Kanye West is right" and "Kill All Jews" were written alongside three swastikas on the wall of a school bathroom in Newport Beach, California in October.
The words "Kanye was right about the Jews" with swastikas and a crossed-out Star of David were found in the bathroom of a school in Newton, MA in November."
His influence extended far beyond school settings.
The report continues: “in December, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh received an antisemitic phone call from an unknown caller who identified themself using the name "Kanye West" and stated, "I hate all Jewish people. All of them must burn and die. I love Hitler."
In late October, the message, "Ye West was right about the devil Jews!" was written in chalk outside of a Jewish cemetery in Stockton, California.
In November, headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Waukegan, Illinois were vandalized with swastikas and the words "Kanye was rite [sic]."
This rise is open, out there, in your face, Jew hatred is frightening.
Americans’ Attitudes Toward Jews is another study conducted by the ADL.
Released in January the study, which surveyed 4000 individuals, which they termed, "a representative sample of the American population from September through October 2022," uncovered a radical uptick in anti-Jew attitudes.
According to the executive summary, "Over three-quarters of Americans (85%) believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, as opposed to 61% found in 2019.
"Twenty percent of Americans believe six or more tropes, which is significantly more than the 11% that ADL found in 2019 and is the highest level measured in decades."
These numbers don’t lie however much I wish they did.
The trend needs to be reversed.
That can only happen when good, honest Americans stand up and loudly say "No!" to this senseless and very destructive hatred.
(See also: Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2022 | ADL; Antisemitic Attitudes in America: Topline Findings | ADL)
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern," a weekly TV program, and "My Chopp," a daily radio spot. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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