As someone who regularly writes and comments on anti-Semitism, Ive been getting asked a lot, "What is going on in New York?" Even my six-year-old daughter, overhearing radio and television interviews, has been asking, Why do other people hate Jews? They are both complicated questions without easy answers, especially for a kindergartner.
As with other forms of bigotry and hatred, a great deal of Jew hatred stems from pure ignorance and fear of the other. Like almost no other minority group in America outside of the Amish, visibly Orthodox Jews (Haredi or ultra-Orthodox) are distinctive in every way; they dress differently, they often speak Yiddish or Hebrew and at least meld it with English, and follow Biblical laws long since forgotten by the secularized world. In an Orthodox neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon, seeing throngs of modest and well-dressed Jews walking the streets instead of driving is common. Orthodox Jews are the epitome of the other and live and work in a tight communal circle a boon for intracommunal cohesiveness but counterproductive for intercommunal understanding and acceptance.
Several weeks ago, a friend noted to me an interesting phenomenon among African American friends: They were sharing anti-Semitic memes from leaders like Louis Farrakhan, who has a tendency to call Jews termites with shocking increased frequency. She noted that they did this despite not knowing any Jews.
That was what stuck out: They dont know any Jews. Its much easier to hate someone you dont know, someone you havent broken bread with, or witnessed their humanity.
Its not just that there is a massive urban population living alongside Jews that dont personally know any, but they also dont know anything about Jews either.
Earlier this week, a video from gonzo journalist Ami Horowitz made the rounds on social media. In the video, Horowitz interviewed any number of African Americans living in Brooklyn about the attacks on their Jewish neighbors. While we dont see every interview and there are certainly those who unequivocally denounced the violence, there were a disturbing number who placed the blame for these attacks on the shoulders of the victims themselves. They were so ignorant about Jews and Jewish history, most of those videoed believed they were recent immigrants to the country.
But one of the puzzle pieces of the answer to solving this crisis of anti-Semitism may come from an unexpected place: Congress.
According to a press release this week, Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced H. Res. 782 along with Reps. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and David Kustoff (R-TN). The resolution encourages public schools throughout the country to design and teach a curriculum about the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust, and the historic importance of the creation of the Jewish State of Israel in 1948.
Late last year in Palm Beach County, Florida, a high school principal was fired by the school board in the aftermath of emailing a parent who inquired about Holocaust education, "I cant say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event because I am not in a position to do so as a school district employee."
In Jersey City, New Jersey, immediately following the massacre there, a school board member called Jews brutes.
Why is it that federal intervention may be necessary? Because even in districts with high populations of Jewish residents, even in districts with teachers who are mandated to teach about the Holocaust and about anti-Semitism more broadly, anti-Semitism still remains. The only cure for hate is sunlight, and more education about Jews and the origins and history of Jew-hatred would be the first step in shining some light.
Bethany Mandel (@bethanyshondark) is a stay-at-home and homeschooling mother of four and a freelance writer. She is an editor at Ricochet.com, a columnist at the Forward, and a contributor to the Washington Examiners Beltway Confidential blog.
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