Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 27, 2020

Rising anti-Semitism reveals closeted bigotry in America

By GILLIAN LELCHUK | March 2, 2017


PUBLIC DOMAIN Two Jewish cemeteries, in Philadelphia and in Missouri, have been vandalized since Trump took office.

Since Trump’s inauguration, anti-Semitism has been rising at a disturbing rate. According to CNN, 48 Jewish community centers (JCCs) in 26 states have received almost 70 bomb threats, and two Jewish cemeteries, in Philadelphia and in Missouri, were vandalized.

This is not normal, but unfortunately, it isn’t particularly surprising. America has had an interesting relationship with Jews — from the ban of many Jewish refugees during the Holocaust, to the longtime, nuanced support of the state of Israel. America is no stranger to anti-Semitism, but many people had believed the hardest work was behind us.

People often joke about how Jews run Hollywood or the media, and while that is of course an over-exaggerated stereotype, there is some truth to it. With more and more Jews in positions of public influence, being Jewish didn’t feel as othering as it once had.

In my own experience, I had always felt different being Jewish, but never in a negative way. Most of my friends celebrated Christmas and Easter, but I got to teach them about Hanukkah and Passover. My religion made me feel special, and no one ever criticized me for it.

I had rarely even witnessed anti-Semitism growing up. The few occasions when someone would crack a joke about how Jews were greedy or had big noses. They always stopped once they found out I was Jewish.

Obviously my personal experience is not indicative of that of every single American Jew, but I don’t believe mine is a rarity.

That’s part of the reason why the anti-Semitism of today is all the more disappointing. Prior to this election, I truly believed people had evolved beyond this. People understood Judaism, to an extent, and the most discrimination I saw in the news was the so-called “War on Christmas.”

When Trump actually won the election, everything changed. That sounds dramatic, I know, but it really is true. Trump’s presidency allowed the racists of the world to step forward and be vocal about their racism. Islamophobia is the norm, black lives don’t matter and trans people are just dressing in drag. And it brought out all the closet anti-Semites.

Now that hating Jews is trendy again, people are committing actual hate crimes. Maybe the bomb threats are just teenagers pulling a prank, but JCC administrators have to take them seriously. Many JCCs have preschools, gyms and youth centers.

And it’s not just Jews. Muslim Americans face some of the most xenophobic behavior we’ve seen in this country in recent years. In addition to the government-sanctioned discrimination known as the travel ban, four mosques have burned in 2017. Authorities report that three of the four were caused by arson, and they have not announced a source for the fourth fire.

This is not normal.

Trump has had repeated opportunities to condemn the threats and violence against minority religious groups, and time and time again he claims he’s not racist or anti-Semitic and circles around the question.

If our own president is not going to take a stand against the hate brewing in this country, then we need to. As we’ve shown over the past two months, people do have power, even if we’re just calling attention to the problems. We need to stand up, and we need our representatives to stand up, and maybe Trump will stop putting his foot in his mouth.

Gillian Lelchuk is a junior Writing Seminars and mathematics double major from Los Alamitos, Calif. She is the Opinions Editor.

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