How to Support Your Jewish Friends During the Wave of Antisemitism
By Ariana Milian
Last month, a Chabad house at the University of Delaware was set on fire in an anti-Semitic act. Chabad houses are generally one of the focal points of Jewish campus life, a refuge for Jewish students to celebrate holidays, attend religious programming, and learn about Jewish life.
Antisemitism has been on the rise in the United States in recent years.
The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh was just one big story that captured international media attention.
Smaller stories include an attack at a Hanukkah Party in Rockland County, New York, multiple reports of synagogues and Jewish graves being vandalized with swastikas, Desean Jackson’s Hitler quote on his Instagram story, and the hashtag trend ‘#JewishPrivilege’ on Twitter.
In 2017, participants at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia threw Nazi salutes, and shouted “seig heil” and “Jews will not replace us.”
Jews of all ages are keenly aware that antisemitism exists.
I was taught about the Holocaust in fourth grade, and learned more about it as I got older. I have also had run-ins with antisemitism throughout my life.
As a Jewish person in an area and country in which we are the minority Jewish minority, I worry about the upticks in antisemitism in recent years.
I have also been personally impacted by it.
I have been called anti-Semitic slurs while out in my community. I have been told that Jews had the Holocaust coming to us.
I lost a friend in high school who told me that her family said that we couldn’t be friends anymore because I was Jewish.
I watched family friends drop off their 11 and 8-year-old sons at Religious School and explain the police presence to them the day after the shooting at Tree of Life.
Listening to the children trying to grasp the concept of deep-seeded antisemitism broke my heart.
In 2019, there were 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment against Jews in the United States, an increase of 12 percent from 2018, according to the Anti- Defamation League’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.
Despite the ride of antisemitism in this country, I am loud and proud about my Judaism. I love talking about my religion and my culture, I love celebrating holidays, and I wear my Star of David with immense pride. I am not here to play the victim.
However, I am here to tell you that the Holocaust was just one lifetime ago. I am here to tell you that antisemitism and Nazism are real and they exist in every community, in every stage and facet of life. Antisemitism is also so ingrained in some aspects of culture that people don’t even realize that what is being said is anti-Semitic.
When someone makes comments or jokes about Jews and money, or Jews and power, that is anti-Semitic. It was used by the Nazis to portray Jews as greedy and power hungry, people who will steal your jobs and your money. When Donald Trump says “sleepy eyes Joe Biden” or “sleepy eyes Chuck Todd,” it is anti-Semitic.
The phrase “sleepy eyes” was used in Nazi propaganda during the Holocaust to help people identify and turn in Jews to the Nazis.
American Jews are dealing with a lot.
We are constantly under fire from all sides of the political spectrum, and we can tend to feel unsafe and unsure of when and where the next bout of hateful attacks towards us will come from.
But here’s how you can be an ally to your Jewish friends.
First, please listen to us. Do not accuse us of playing the victim or brushing antisemitism off as some sort of archaic concept. It’s very real and it’s something we deal with every day, directly or indirectly.
Second, call out antisemitism when you see it or hear it.
Even if it doesn’t affect you or if you aren’t Jewish. Antisemitism can be something that is so normalized and ingrained in society that we don’t even realize it’s there.
Educate your friends and family on the language they use and why it’s problematic.
Finally, don’t brush it off. Stop pretending it’s harmless, that it isn’t ill-intended, or that it doesn’t exist at all. One of the most harmful things to the Jewish community is the denial of antisemitism and violence against us. It hurts the community as a whole.
Jews shouldn’t have to live in fear of when the next anti-Semitic attack will occur. I shouldn’t have had to learn about antisemitism from a young age.
I want my eventual children to live in a world where antisemitism doesn’t exist, and that can’t happen without my generation confronting the issue head on.
Your Jewish friends, peers, and colleagues need your support. Have our backs, be an ally, and call out antisemitism when you see it.