Amid a recent wave of antisemitism from a number of dangerously influential people, I am doubling down on my call to action.
The Jewish community – and anyone who considers themselves an ally for that matter – must demand consequences. How can we expect to fight Jew hatred if we do not rise to the occasion and hold those committing hate speech and hate crimes accountable?
The youngest Holocaust survivors are now in their late 70s, and soon historical texts will be all that is left to tell their stories. This makes it infinitely more imperative that Jewish people make a point of speaking up for us. When we face hatred. When we see others face it.
When hugely famous pop-culture icons go on hate-speech diatribes. When former and soon-to-be elected officials and candidates make antisemitic statements to the country.
I am the grandchild of Holocaust survivors. My Jewish activism started when I thought it was my responsibility to “never forget and always remember” their stories and share them, to ensure Jew-hatred will not flourish.
I never thought I would see this extreme level of hatred against the Jewish people and be targeted by it myself.Take what’s happening at the University of Vermont for example.
Repeated cases of alleged antisemitism
The US Department of Education recently launched an investigation into multiple instances of alleged antisemitism on the campus. A group designed to spread awareness and combat sexual assault, called UVM Empowering Survivors, declared on their Facebook page that Zionist students would be blocked from participating in the group.
When Jewish students attempted to discuss the matter, they were told simply that the group wouldn’t grant them a conversation.
Another complaint at the university alleged that a teaching assistant threatened to reduce the grades of two students simply for being Zionists. In the town of St. Albans, not far from the university, signs have been sprouting up on telephone poles that read, “It’s OK to be Antisemitic.”
These incidents are not rare. The University of Tennessee regularly has anti-Jewish propaganda distributed on campus. Anti-Jewish graffiti and fliers sprawl across St. Petersburg, Florida; Middlesex, Massachusetts; Newark, Delaware; El Cerrito, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; Ithaca College, New York; Jacksonville, Florida – and that is just in the last few days.
Violent hate crimes attacking Jews are regularly occurring in Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey and New York – and that is only in the last couple of weeks.
There is a problem. Jewish students at universities across the US are being targeted and bullied on campus. Many Jewish schools, synagogues and organizations across the US have been threatened and vandalized.
In the areas where incidents of bullying, hate speech, hate crimes and vandalism against Jews are happening, Jews themselves are facing pressure to hide their identity. To change their ways. To keep quiet. To live with antisemitism. And this is something that we can live with no longer.
I am taking action, not only because I am being targeted especially on social media, but because my people are being targeted. While I have a supportive community of family, friends, colleagues, elected leaders, organizations and activists – other people do not.
I am taking action especially to help those who need it most. And I urge you to take action, whether you are Jewish or not, whether you are Republican or Democrat, whether you are Israeli, American, or any other nationality.We need your help.
The writer is an Emmy-nominated actor, director and filmmaker who has won over 100 international film festival awards. He is an active leader in the LGBTQ+ and Jewish communities, including his role as director of mobilization for the End Jew Hatred movement.