Why does it take violence, murder and destruction to capture the attention of the American public? I ask this because of the violent massacre that took place last week at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Before this shooting, the main coverage on anti-Semitism that I would see was in regards to hate rhetoric on social media, specifically Twitter. Occasionally, I would also read about incidents of swastikas being drawn in obscure places, such as those in Gramercy Residence Hall two years ago.
But the fact is, anti-Semitic attacks have increased by almost 60 percent since 2016, faster than any other time in the past forty years. In order for hatred against Jews in this country to finally decline, it is important for average citizens to be aware of the issues at hand all of the time — not just right after something tragic happens.
Unfortunately, the prevalence of anti-Semitism is not taken seriously by the average American. A disturbing number of Americans do not fully comprehend the nature of anti-Semitism, nor do they understand how to deal with it. This could be is because of complacency, desensitization or a number of other reasons. But the fact is that over 680 hate crimes against Jews occurred in 2016 only in the United States — a startling number that should not be neglected by the general public.
And anti-Semitic incidents are still alive and well in this country — even after last week’s shooting. As a Jewish person, I was appalled to read about a recent instance in which a Kentucky father dressed up his son as a Nazi for a local Halloween event in their town. This occurred two days before the shooting, and while I was somewhat aghast while I read about it, I was also not surprised. I did not expect any more major news outlets to report on it, because it was more absurd than anything else. Even I brushed it off. But anti-Semitism has become a hot topic after the Pittsburgh shooting, with an immense amount of press coverage following it — and rightfully so. But the fact that these other, smaller scale incidents — and how they only further push the normalization of anti-Semitism — are not understood well enough by the people around us further contributes to the problem.
Hate crimes are constantly occurring in America — and they are only increasing. The more protests there are, the more counter protests there are, thus there is more anger and volatility surrounding social causes. As horrified as I am by the events in Pittsburgh, I couldn’t help but feel that it was only a matter of time before a tragedy of this scale happened to the Jewish community. As a minority group in this country, it seemed impossible that the Jewish people would not fall prey to this epidemic of mass murder. This may seem hopeless or pessimistic, but it is how I have been feeling for quite some time now, as I have been watching increasing quantities of hate spill out of deeply concealed crevices of U.S. society. Sadly, as a well-informed Jewish woman, the mentality of “it can’t possibly happen to me” never even crossed my mind.
The United States is not perfect. While it is great to be proud of where you live or come from, it is also ridiculous to idealize a country in which such awful things happen on such a regular basis. The more we call out anti-Semitism in the public sphere, the better. It shouldn’t have taken a mass shooting for anti-Semitic acts to be talked about. But what’s done is done. We not have an opportunity to bring this conversation center stage, and it’s more important than ever that we keep discussing these issues until they’re resolved.
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Email Sima Doctoroff at [email protected]