By Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz
We all know that antisemitism is on the rise in this country.
Arizona Sen. Wendy Rogers, for example, routinely spreads antisemitic statements, and she posted a photoshopped image of herself on her Gab and Telegram accounts with a dead rhino branded with the letters CPAC, where the letter “a” contained a Star of David.
Online hate is something we must take extremely seriously. As a community, though, our response cannot be one of fear.
Such offenses across the U.S. are too numerous to list in full and are on the rise. And dangerous conspiracy theories have real effects in the real world. The ADL found that, in 2020, there were 327 antisemitic incidents at Jewish institutions. In 2021, that number went up to 525, a 61% increase.
But my point is not the antisemitic messages but the response it should bring forth from us. As Jews, we should be alarmed by the rhetoric. We should condemn hate wherever we see it and never tolerate antisemitism. Many Jews live in fear of being targeted by the far right and the far left, and this ought to be a source of Jewish unity, not of blindly only pointing in one direction.
Keeping people educated about Jewish issues is not an easy task. We make up only about 2% of the American population. Compare that with the number of conspiracy theorists out there — and those willing to use anti-Jewish conspiracy theories to score political points — and it is easy to see why dangerous information about Jews gets spread faster than we can correct it.
The shooter who killed 10 in Buffalo, N.Y., on May 14 was motivated by antisemitic conspiracy theories. Antisemitism is a danger both to ourselves and to our neighbors. For white supremacists, hatred of people of color is connected with hatred of Jews. The Jews are viewed by such antisemites as the worst of all. To them, we deceptively often hide in white skin and white social circles while we are actually more aligned with minority groups and not with the white supremacists.
But identifying the problem isn’t enough. We need to drown it out by educating the public on who Jews are. We do this by deepening allyship and bridge-building that promote mutual understanding. We do this by living our lives and living out our cherished Jewish values openly and proudly.
That way, when someone comes across a crazy conspiracy theory about Jews, they’ll know from experience who we really are.
Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz is the president and dean of Valley Beit Midrash in Scottsdale, Ariz.