Four years ago, Jordan, my big brother, graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in economics and moved to Pittsburgh. He relocated to a strange new city where he did not know a soul. One of the hardest experiences for Jews living away from family and friends is the Jewish high holidays. Luckily for Jordan, though, the Tree of Life synagogue opened its doors, giving him a warm community and a place to pray.
This past Saturday, a deranged man entered that same synagogue during morning services, shouted “All Jews must die!” and took 11 lives of that same community.
People are quick to universalize this tragedy, posting about gun control, white supremacy, nationalism and the like. But we need to pause and address the root of this hate crime: anti-Semitism.
There is no denying that anti-Semitism has plagued our world for millennia. Jews have been expelled from countries more than a hundred times. From the Spanish Inquisition to the Crusades and the Holocaust, Jews have been targeted and slaughtered. From the Black Plague to the infamous Dreyfus Trial and Nazi Germany, Jews have been blamed for societal ills and others’ misfortunes.
Despite generations of persecution, genocide and expulsion, what has ensured the Jewish community’s survival is a goal-oriented determination, rooted in individual responsibility and chutzpa (a Yiddish word meaning “shameless audacity”). After experiencing the worst systematic genocide in human history, the Jewish community launched an attitudinal revolution against its own unhappy past. Survivors sought to erase the image of the “ghetto Jews,” willingly accepting their demise. Out of this tragedy emerged the Jewish state of Israel, which is now one of the most prosperous and forward-thinking nations in the world.
Despite the deep-seeded hatred for Jews across the globe, a sentiment of strength and communal perseverance has and must continue to direct the Jewish community. I therefore do not want to participate in the ongoing competition for “most victimized group” and undermine others’ oppression.
What I want to highlight, though, is the blatant double standard both in this community and in the mainstream media.
All manifestations of Islamophobia and racism are evil and unacceptable, and journalists should continue to expose these hateful acts. However, hate crimes against Muslims are reported more than twice as much as those against Jews. Without adjusting for population size, though, the FBI reports twice as many hate crimes against Jews (684) than against Muslims (307). 2016 FBI data shows Jews are three times more likely than African Americans and 1.5 times more likely than Muslims to be a victim of a hate crime.
The Anti-Defamation League 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents found the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States rose 57 percent in 2017. In fact, Jews experienced more religious-based hate crimes than all other religious groups combined. Despite its prevalence, anti-Semitic incidents are still grossly underreported.
Anti-Semitism is not just a characteristic of fringe groups. In fact, it comes from the far left, the far right and everywhere in-between.
Prominent religious leader Louis Farrakhan repeatedly calls Jews “termites” and “Satanic.” Last year’s “Dyke March” in Chicago asked Jewish participants to leave because they displayed a Star of David on their pride flags. Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson called Jewish Israelis “vermin” and “termites.” After protestors marched through Charlottesville yelling “Jews will not replace us,” our president declared there were “some very fine people on both sides.”
I could also explicate the rampant anti-Semitism in Europe and Islamic countries, but then this article would become a book.
I do not seek to minimize the suffering of other discriminated communities. All manifestations of identity-based hatred and violence should and must be addressed. However, Jewish identities are excluded from social justice rhetoric and today’s trendy doctrine of intersectionality. Outside of the Jewish community, the relative silence is deafening.
This past Sunday, Holocaust survivors and their children traveled to Ann Arbor to tell their stories to students. One participant was afraid to go inside the building because the luncheon lacked armed security. The United States is no 1930s Europe, but Jews who escaped gas chambers and death camps should not continue to live in fear because of who they are.
If you want to address identity-based hatred, then do not ignore anti-Semitism. This festering disease is too prevalent to overlook.
In light of the tragedy in Pittsburgh, though, religious leaders, both Christian and Muslim, have fundraised and lent their support to the Jewish community. Just as the Tree of Life synagogue treated my brother like family, so has Pittsburgh’s Christian and Muslim community treated its Jewish neighbors.
We should similarly treat all persecuted minorities like brothers and sisters in times of vulnerability.
Talia Katz is a senior in the Ford School of Public Policy.