BOSTON - “A few of my non-Jewish friends took jokes against me as a Jew one step too far - they tried to shove me into an oven,” a Jewish high school girl said in front of her class and teachers during a lecture I delivered in the US this week.
She said that this group of friends used to “throw pennies at me,” as if that was a legitimate way to insinuate that “Jews are greedy,” as the classic antisemitic conspiracy theory claims.
Another student, who says he visibly displays his Judaism regularly, shared that when traveling to school, he would regularly receive threats and curse words accompanied by violence and being spat on, something that had become a norm, he said. In one incident the teen recalled, he was forced to run into a clothing store and hide any sort of Jewish clothing or symbols.
This is America in 2022, when rapper Kanye West regularly provokes antisemitism and Jew hate on a daily basis to tens of millions of his followers on social media.
American Jewry's new reality is bleak
I was talking to this group of 10-graders during their history class about antisemitism in Europe. I rhetorically asked if any of them ever experienced antisemitism and wasn’t expecting to get too many answers. I thought that the worst-case scenario would be someone who was yelled at once or twice on the street, but I was wrong.
I remember way back in the day when Europe and specifically European Jewry, were under attack. Terrorist attacks such as the Toulouse massacre at the Jewish Otzar Hatorah school; the terrorist attacks at Hyper Cacher in Paris and outside of a Copenhagen synagogue - caused European Jewry to change its approach to security and the threat of antisemitism.
I asked many Jewish leaders back then if they thought there was a need for Jewish American institutions to increase security and reassess their situation. “We aren’t Europe,” they all said in a chorus. “We are the United States of America,” they said proudly and added that “America is different than any other Diaspora community in Jewish history.” They expressed their full faith in their country and leadership.
A few hours later, I spoke with a group of students from the Brandeis Israel Public Affairs Committee (BIPAC). A group of them came directly from a protest they helped organize at Harvard University against Mohammed El-Kurd, a Palestinian writer and poet who lives in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
“When a professor asked me why I am protesting, I answered that El-Kurd wants people like me and my family dead,” one of the students who participated in the demonstration told me. They had to outsmart Harvard security and find a way in - without an official Harvard badge.
According to the Anti Defamation League (ADL), on a few occasions, El-Kurd has alleged that Jewish Israelis and Zionists eat the organs of Palestinians or have an inherent bloodthirstiness. He tweeted that Zionists have an “unquenchable thirst for Palestinian blood.”
This is what Jewish young adults need to experience on college campuses. This is the new reality of young American Jews and it's getting worse.
If Kanye West gets away with antisemitism, anyone can
“I'm a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3… on JEWISH PEOPLE,” Kanye tweeted, allegedly threatening Jews. He probably meant to write DEFCON 3, which means, “increase in force readiness above that required for normal readiness,” in the Air Force. He also said that he “actually can’t be antisemitic,” because “black people are actually Jew[s] also.”
Just recently the neo-Nazi Goyim Defense League (GDL) hung up a sign which read "Kanye is right about the Jews" above a highway overpass while giving Nazi salutes.
This is not the America I have known. This is not the same atmosphere I have seen toward Jews for the past few decades. Celebrities such as Kanye West make it legitimate for a young Jewish girl's friends to try and shove her into an oven, without her even thinking of filing a police complaint.
If West can get away with straightforward antisemitism - so can millions of his followers.We cannot accept this new and worrying standard of racism. We cannot allow young American Jews to be treated like garbage. Opinion makers and celebrities - Jewish and non-Jewish - need to stand up and make their opinions heard. Most of these opinion makers are quiet, it's about time they proudly fight hatred of any sort. Enough is enough.