As a proud Jew and Zionist, I am deeply disgusted by recent incidents that have unfolded in Georgia. On June 23rd and 24th, neo-Nazi flags were proudly waved just outside the Chabad in Marietta, Georgia, and Temple Beth Israel in Macon, Georgia. It is truly disheartening to witness the audacity of these neo-Nazis.
Every year we say, “Never again,” and yet events like these still occur. Do these people really understand the implications of their Nazi flags? Do they understand that many congregants in those synagogues could very well have had family members murdered by Nazis in the Holocaust? Do they understand that we – Jews – are humans just like everyone else?
In 2018, I became the founder and president of Students Supporting Israel (SSI) at Kennesaw State University, which is only thirty minutes from where the neo-Nazis waved their flags. I now serve as the SSI National Director of Programs and Partnerships. SSI is a student-led international movement that supports students in grassroots pro-Israel advocacy. As I was watching the news of neo-Nazis waving the flags, I was reminded of one of the programs SSI offers called the Undenied Campaign.
In this important initiative undertaken by SSI National, we send books about the Holocaust to college campuses across the United States and Canada. Students then distribute these free books to their peers throughout their campuses. The purpose of this campaign is to educate students about the Holocaust due to the rising lack of education and, even worse, Holocaust denial. These programs are more necessary now than ever.
My stomach turned when I watched the news of these neo-Nazis proudly waving flags ridden with swastikas. I could not imagine this happening here in Georgia, but here we are. “Never again” is here and now. In 2018, I participated in another SSI National program where students publicly arranged red cups spelling out ‘9/11’ with American flags as a memorial to the victims of the terrorist attacks in 2001. As I was finishing the event, a student approached me, yelling, swearing, threatening me, and calling me a Nazi. If she only knew that I have family members who were murdered by Nazis. The very reason I am alive today is because of my great-great-grandfather’s decision to send his teenage son, my great-grandfather, from Hungary to America after reading Mein Kampf. Could this student possibly comprehend how personal this is to me?
I contemplated what action to take after being called a Nazi and threatened to leave my own campus. The antisemitism that I experienced on that day fueled me to go through the process of passing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA) at Kennesaw State University. The IHRA definition best reflects the lived experiences of Jewish people and benefits the campus community by creating awareness, providing education, and standing up against hate and bigotry in all its forms. This does not prevent antisemitism, per se, but rather draws the line where mere criticism veers into discrimination. SSI fights against antisemitism in all of its manifestations. Through the work of SSI members across the country, twenty-eight bills have been passed by student governments and administrations, including at the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.
As enraging as it is to see neo-Nazis waving flags with swastikas, it reminds me that “never again” is an action – not simply a slogan. I will continue to fight against antisemitism, and I will continue to stand up for my homeland – the only Jewish country in the world, and for my people. Never again is now.
Rebekah Mann is the Director of Campus Programming and Strategic Partnerships of Students Supporting Israel (SSI), a pro-Israel grassroots student movement.
This op-ed is published in partnership with a coalition of organizations that fight antisemitism across the world. Read the previous article by Jamie Hyams