Antisemitism, The Far Right And Me

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Antisemitism, The Far Right And Me

“Tolerance is not a synonym of weakness.” Satyendra Singh

Growing up with the children of Holocaust survivors, I learned it is always an anxious time to be an American Jew. If there isn’t a genuine threat to my safety, my brain can easily invent one. 

The BF says it’s because when my grandparents were being raped and pillaged in Eastern Europe, his grandparents were looking at real estate on the Eastern Shore. We have different anxiety levels.

According to the AntiDefamation League, antisemitism is up and growing over the last five years.

In the past, most antisemitic acts were random acts of violence from  personal hatred of Jews. But lately, the acts are from extremist, political ideology. Most recent acts of Antisemitism are being committed by the Far Right -in particular, white supremacist groups that are embraced by the Right. 

It’s mind-boggling to me that the Jewish Orthodox community has embraced a president who said that the group in Charlottesville who shouted “Jews will not replace us” had some very fine people. He shares the same conspiracy theories about George Soros funding immigrant migration that some synagogue shooters do. 

Antisemitism seems to be the backbone of most far-right groups and conspiracy theories. It certainly is behind QAnon and growing more so. The claim that rich Jews, including the Rothschild banking family, secretly control the world has long been a recurring feature in antisemitism and is behind QAnon theories. I was told that as a child as one of the explanations for Hitler’s popularity. I remember looking around my working-class Jewish neighborhood wondering how anyone could believe something like that.

The age-old anti-Semitic story claiming that Jews kill Christian children to harvest their blood for ritual purposes is making a comeback. I have a personal connection to that one. My last name means “holy seed” because my ex-husband is a descendent of a group of rabbis who defended a Jewish person accused of killing a Christian child to use his blood for a Passover service. They were ultimately killed in his place. I certainly didn’t think I would be hearing that ancient one again. QAnon sounds more and more like a rebranded Nazi cult. I didn’t hear Trump come out against them either.

Antisemitism has been called the world’s oldest hatred. It’s been used throughout centuries to explain all the bad things that happen in a society. It becomes more prominent in times of economic distress and political unrest. My mother used to say that the world needs someone to blame for their troubles. We have a lot of troubles right now. 

Antisemitism is on the rise in Europe as well. It isn’t just “hillbillies raising a confederate flag.” This isn’t an isolated hatred. Don’t stay silent. Two Qanon supporters were elected to Congress this year. Isn’t that how the Nazis started? No one took them seriously and look what happened.

PS I wrote this blog post on Monday.  On Wednesday among the many ugly, white supremacist groups storming the capitol were Nazis.  Carrying swastika flags and wearing shirts that said things like “Camp Auschwitz STAFF, work brings freedom” and “6MWE” (which stands for “six million weren’t enough,” a reference to the number of Jewish people killed in the Holocaust). The Nazis made themselves right at home in the Capitol stoking  fear and sending a clear message of the hate and violence they represent. They were not patriots, Jewish Ivanka.

Stay safe,

JAZ

Anti – Semitism in Europe – Again?

Anti – Semitism in Europe – Again?

“At Auschwitz, tell me, where was God?” And the answer: “Where was man?” William Styron

We are all born into some story, with its particular background scenery, that affects our emotional, social and spiritual growth.

My story was anti-Semitism. My grandparents were part of the well documented immigration of eastern European and Russian Jews at the end of the nineteenth century to America. Restrictions and barriers were placed on Jews that made it impossible to have a normal self-sustaining life in their countries.   In Russia and Poland, pogroms (physical attacks on the Jews and their villages) happened on a regular basis.

Both my parents were born here and had experienced anti-Semitism growing up. My father was a high-ranking officer in the army (not a job Jews could have at that time) and had fought in two wars. He experienced extreme prejudice during his twenty years in the army. My mother grew up on a farm where they were the only Jewish family in their town. She also had a lot of experience with bigotry and discrimination.

When they had children, they moved into the most Jewish neighborhood they could find so their children wouldn’t have the same experiences. Many holocaust survivors moved there as well. I grew up hearing all the stories.

I  was able to read at a very young age and for some reason read the story of Anne Frank when I was nine years old. I looked at the picture of Anne. She had brown hair and brown eyes. I thought that she looked like me and she was Jewish also.  I decided in my nine year old wisdom  that they  could come for me too. I quickly became friends with the only Christian I knew, Frankie, the son of the superintendent of our building. His family could hide me if it happened again.

Children don’t understand prejudice. The world is black and white to them. If someone is mean than you don’t like them. But for someone to not like you and want to kill you because you are Jewish, or Black, Gay or Muslim – that is a hard concept for kids. It has to be taught. As in – if your parents hate them or are afraid of them, then they must be bad. Being hated because I was born into a Jewish family that wasn’t even religious was hard for me as a child to comprehend.

I grew up on the beach and saw a lot of people with numbers on their arms. All the old people who I knew had heavy European accents. For a brief period I thought they counted the older people and when you became old you got an accent. Many of my friends were the children of holocaust survivors. Their lives were shrouded in mystery and darkness.

The holocaust changed so many lives by simply observing just how horrible certain humans can treat each other. It didn’t just scar the survivors but anyone who came in contact with their stories. I grew up in a frightened community. I have always felt how tenuous the world was and that things could end at any moment just as it had for Anne Frank.

As I got older, I became obsessed with reading everything I could about the holocaust. I saw every film and documentary. Someone asked me once “What job I was going to get as the leading authority on the holocaust?’ But I needed answers. How did it happen? Why did people hate us so much? How do people hate for no reason and of course – the nature of evil.

I learned that evil can happen when it is beyond the realm of civilized human consciousness – like planning to kill all the Jews in Europe by gassing and burning them in ovens, flying a plane into the World Trade Center, murdering all the intellectuals or killing  or kidnapping children for going to school.

I am watching that evil again. I recently  saw a map on CNN listing the number of Jews living in each country in Europe. Was that the same map that Hitler looked at? The last time I saw a map listing the number of Jews in each country in Europe it was in a holocaust book showing the number of dead Jews from each country.

So there are no lessons to be learned from the past. The people committing atrocities don’t think of themselves as evil. They commit these acts in the name of righteousness or religion. As someone who loves stories, I wanted restoration and redemption in my story. But instead the monsters of my childhood turn out to be human beings in the present.

Fly safe,

JAZ