As non-Jews, it’s our job to combat anti-Semitism
People of goodwill are understandably outraged by the nine separate attacks against Jews in New York alone since Dec. 23, 2019. These crimes are a reminder that non-Jews must do a better job to address the lingering problem of anti-Semitism in America.
Although historically the United States has been a place where Jews have found refuge to escape mistreatment in other lands, recently there has been a troubling rise in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide. The Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic attacks more than doubled in 2018.
According to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Berman Jewish Databank, as of 2017, the U.S. Jewish population stood at 6,850,865. That means, in a country of 327 million people, Jews make up just 2.1 percent of the overall U.S. population. The point of these figures is that we cannot leave the task of fighting anti-Semitism to Jews alone.
From a sheer numbers perspective, more than 2 percent of our population must be mobilized to action if we are going to make any headway against this recurring problem. Effectively combating one of the world’s oldest hatreds — malice towards Jews — must be an effort that is galvanized, sustained and supported vigorously by non-Jews.
How to go about this?
For starters, the immediate threat of bad actors planning and conducting attacks against Jewish houses of worship and individuals must be met with robust measures by the authorities. Appropriate resources must be provided to law enforcement agencies at all levels.
Additionally, efforts to make a dent in anti-Semitism must begin in our schools. Curricula need to be bolstered with a more thorough accounting of the Jewish experience and the ancient hatred of their communities. Tolerance training that teaches of the unique struggle of Jews is needed on a broad basis.
As schools budget for field trips to Washington, D.C., more educational institutions need to allocate resources for study trips to appropriate museums and historical destinations such as the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C., Holocaust memorials and museums in other states and, if overseas trips are possible, former Nazi concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau and Bergen-Belsen.
To properly augment these programs, educators must be equipped with all of the tools available in teaching today — online courses, virtual programs, symposia, learning apps and more. This obligation to teach America’s youth about both the historical and present-day challenges of anti-Semitism must be facilitated by improved collaboration between Jewish and non-Jewish educators, police and other professionals. When possible, Holocaust survivors, concentration camp liberators and present-day victims of anti-Semitism should be consulted and involved, to provide perspective and firsthand accounts.
Fortifying our schools with improved content about the Jewish people and the history of anti-Semitism can help young Americans become grounded, empathetic and equipped with the knowledge of past injustices.
The recent stories about high school students playing Nazi drinking games with swastika symbols — an affront that insults the Greatest Generation of Americans who fought to defeat Hitler’s Germany — indicate ignorance of the Nazi ideology and demonstrate insensitivity to its victims. Our young people need to know that the anti-Jewish propaganda and other poisonous ideas of Nazism are not acceptable and have been used to justify the murder of fellow Americans.
Making headway in this endeavor will involve a long-term, sustained effort by people of all stripes. While people of goodwill cannot eliminate ignorance and hatred by adopting easy slogans, we are all in a position to speak out when people of the Jewish faith are targeted. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, elected officials and other community figures all need to do their part.
Our anger from the violent attacks against our Jewish communities must mobilize non-Jews to do more to raise awareness and fight anti-Semitism. Without the involvement of the broader society, confronting the curse of hatred against Jews will continue to be an uphill climb in the United States.
Ted Gover, Ph.D., is director of the Tribal Administration Program at Claremont Graduate University. He is an adviser to the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its world-renowned Museum of Tolerance. The opinions expressed here are his alone.
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