Tackling Anti-Semitism in the United States

On Oct. 27, 2018, a gunman murdered 11 people during Shabbat morning services at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Following the attack, multiple social media posts by the perpetrator surfaced where anti-Semitic comments were made.

 Eighty-year-old Judah Samet was four minutes late to the service that day. After parking his car and preparing to go inside, he was told to leave as an active shooting was taking place. Shortly after, Samet found himself directly in the line of fire of the gunman—and just narrowly escaped.

 Over 70 years prior, Samet was targeted for his faith and exposed to extreme horrors during the Holocaust. After the shooting, Samet told The Washington Post that the question he got most was whether his memories of the Holocaust came flooding back when witnessing the violence in his synagogue of more than 50 years. To that, Samet said he simply replied, “It never stops.”

 Just over two weeks later, audience members at a Baltimore production of “Fiddler on the Roof” (a play about a Jewish family living in Russia) feared the worst when a man yelled “Heil Hitler!” and “Heil Trump!” during the musical’s intermission.

 Since President Donald Trump’s election over two years ago, he has been backed, supported and idolized by numerous alt-right, Nazi and white supremacy groups and individuals. Though Trump has never voiced his support for these terror organizations, he has yet to publicly denounce them—and that speaks for itself.

 We at The New Paltz Oracle believe that anti-Semitism is and always has been a major threat to the well-being of Jewish members of society and as President of the United States, it is President Trump’s responsibility to lead by example and urge his followers, supporters and citizens to denounce any and all hate and terror organizations.  

 According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States increased 57 percent in the past year. Data released by the FBI last month shows equally terrifying figures; in the past year, hate crimes against Jewish people and institutions made up for 58.1 percent of all religious-based incidents.

 These numbers alone are proof of the major epidemic that has always existed in our country and is only getting worse. No one should have to fear for their lives due to what they believe in, and progress must be made to end this rhetoric. 

Not only are these incidents occurring in public spaces, but also on college campuses throughout the country.

 On Nov. 28, Elizabeth Midlarsky, a professor who both teaches and researches the Holocaust at Columbia Teachers College, entered her office to find that it had been vandalized with anti-Semitic slurs and swastikas.

 The crime was nothing new to Midlarsky—just over 10 years prior, her office was vandalized with similar symbols and words of hate. Though Midlarsky admitted that the first incident didn’t shock her much, she told The Washington Post that this one carried a different weight. “I’m usually not a fearful person,” she said. “But they got me. I’m afraid.”

 Jewish Americans around the country have echoed Midlarsky in that fear. After the shooting in Pittsburgh, it seems that nowhere is safe from the horrors of anti-Semitism—not the streets, not a place of worship and not even a private office.

Too many times, instances of swastikas being painted or drawn in public places are relegated to “cries for attention.” Though this may be true, these symbols and other anti-Semitic messages and language are nothing but relics of hate and do nothing but hurt members of the Jewish faith. 

 This hate has even made its way onto our campus. In October, flyers were posted around campus for Identity Evropa, a white supremacist group that looks to recruit white males on college campuses and incite violence against minority groups.

Terror organizations like Identity Evropa spread only one message: Hate. Though it is our First Amendment right to be able to speak and share opinions freely, groups like this have no place on our campus since they instill fear and a hateful rhetoric. 

 The flyers were quickly taken down and President Donald P. Christian issued a statement in which he condemned all that Identity Evropa stands for. Still, the impact that the group had made on our campus was irreversible. Minority students were now made aware of this organization’s presence in our town, on our campus and were and continue to be forced to feel unsafe on their own college campus. 

 We at The Oracle believe that no student should ever fear for their safety while attending school. We come to school to learn, gain knowledge and grow as people. Any group or individual that disrupts this process or makes any student or faculty member feel unsafe should be reprimanded and removed immediately. 

With all the hate that is being spread in the world around us, specifically in our own country, it is more important now than ever to understand that all your words and actions can and will have an affect on others. We stand with Jewish members of our community, the country and the world and hope to one day see a world where no one is discriminated against or targeted for what they believe in.