The Current Rise of Anti-Semitism

When I check my phone every day to Instagram, as most teenagers do, more often than not, I see a new anti-Semitic hate crime reported. As a Jewish teenager, this raises feelings of fear that I could get assaulted or harassed just because of what I believe in. Recently, anti-Semitism has been at its highest level (167% according to PBS) in the United States since World War II, when the Nazis murdered six million Jews. People in the US are posting, tweeting, and saying extremely derogatory comments about Jews on various forms of social media, fueling the rise of anti-Semitism in our country. 

Our digital society enables people to spread misinformation. Because of this, people think it is okay to assault, harass and vandalize the Jewish people and their culture. According to NPR, there are around seven anti-Semitic incidents per day. For years there have been vandalizations of synagogues, Jewish cemeteries, Jewish college fraternities, sororities, Sukkahs, and many more places. There have also been shootings in synagogues showing the degree of hate in our country. For example, four years ago in Pittsburg, there was a deadly shooting on Shabbat- the holiest day of the week- where eleven Jews were murdered. The shooter yelled over the loudspeaker, “all Jews must die.” Anti-Semitic hate crimes consume all facets of our society, causing a dangerous epidemic. 

Various well-known people are using their power to continue and strengthen the rise of anti-Semitism. For years, former president Donald Trump has been abusing his power to spread falsity about Jewish people. In the past, he has said, “The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day” and “A lot of you [Jewish people] are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers. They are not nice people at all. But you have to vote for me; you have no choice.” These are just a few alarming quotes from Trump, all of which contribute to increasing Jewish hate crimes. When he–formerly one of the most powerful men in the US–says these derogatory words, his millions of followers begin to hate the Jewish people. They now think it is okay to be anti-Semitic and to commit anti-Semitic acts because someone they value the opinion of has. It is a ripple effect, similar to how the rise of hatred towards Jews started and resulted in six million deaths in the Holocaust. Adolf Hitler blamed Jews for the economic recession in the early 1930s by spreading extremely insulting false propaganda about them all over his country. This quickly led to millions of people hating the Jewish people for something they had no part in doing. The Jewish people were then tortured and murdered just from people spreading false ideas about their culture. When looking at the data on the escalation of anti-Semitism in our world today, it scares me to think of what has happened in the past and could happen again. 

Recently, rapper, songwriter, record producer, and fashion designer, Kanye West, or “Ye,” has been tweeting, posting on Instagram, and speaking on talk shows about his anti-Jewish theories. One of West’s anti-Semitic tweets was “I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE”. On various talk shows, he has also said, “I see good things about Hitler, I like him. They did good things too, we’ve got to stop dissing the Nazis all the time. Every human being has brought something of value, especially Hitler.” He has also said that he looks up to Hitler and that he didn’t kill six million Jews and the Jews should forgive him. He also posted on Twitter a picture of the Star of David intertwined with a swastika. It is frightening to see that West has 31 million followers and only 14.8 million Jewish people worldwide. The fact that he has more than twice the amount of followers that there are Jews shows that one offensive tweet can make a huge impact on anti-Semitism. If all his followers adapt to his views, which many are, then the ratio of Jews to anti-Semites will be even more catastrophic than it was before. 

In response to West’s behavior, many people followed his footsteps and spread anti-Semitic ideology. Four neo-Nazis stood on a LA interstate highway bridge and held signs saying, “Kanye is right about the Jews,” while giving the Hitler salute. On the other side of the country, in Jacksonville, Florida, there were posters on the interstate highway saying “End Jewish Supremacy in America” and “Honk if you know it’s the Jews.” During an appearance on a Drink Champs podcast, West repeated even more anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, among many other offensive claims. He referenced Adidas directly, saying, with complete ignorance,  “I can say anti-Semitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me.” 

For the next few days, people all over social media became outraged. People posted many things tagging Adidas and making petitions for them to drop West after his anti-Semitic comments. After a few days, Adidas finally cut ties with West. The company explained that “Ye’s recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, hateful and dangerous, and they violate the company’s values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.” After Adidas dropped West, Balenciaga, Vogue, Foot Locker, CAA (his talent agency), and his lawyer all followed suit. I think that it is great that people are standing up against these anti-Semitic actions. It shows that our society does condemn hateful and violent speech, but it is an issue that people only notice long-standing anti-Jewish displays because it was briefly connected to a celebrity. There have been many horrible anti-Semitic incidents that do not attract the public eye because no one cares to post or talk about them. West’s downfall brought attention to anti-Semitism that society prefers not to notice. What West said was not new behavior; it was just impossible for us to ignore in our digital society.

No matter the outcome of the West’s situation, Jews will be blamed. For the Jewish community, there is no appropriate response to hate crimes as severe as this. According to Yair Rosenberg at The Atlantic, “If the Jews stay silent, the anti-Semitism continues unabated; if they speak up, and their assailant is penalized by non-Jewish society, anti-Semitis feel affirmed. This is the cruel paradox that has perpetuated anti-Semitism for centuries”. People are acting resentful and saying that the Jewish people ruined Kanye because they run the world and control everything. With everything that has been going on in our world recently, I have been very scared to be a Jew. The alarming rate of the rise of anti-Semitism will only be lowered if we all do our part to solve the problem. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in order to stop anti-Semitism, we have to speak up, report incidents, talk about anti-Semitism and extreme hate, learn about what is happening in the world, and spread the news. I believe that anti-Semitism should have no place in our country, and it is up to us to change the direction in which anti-Semitism is going. If our country values equal rights and treatment for all cultures, then we should speak out about anti-Semitism.