Don’t Let History Repeat Itself | Nate Neustadt
Updated: Jan 31
Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Seventy-six years ago, allied forces put an end to the atrocities committed by the Nazi regime in Europe. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were murdered in concentration camps, ghettos, and forests. Now, antisemitism is on the rise again.
In the United States, one in four American Jews experienced an antisemitic incident last year. In a survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), 90% of Jews surveyed think that antisemitism is a problem in the US. And, 46% of Jews surveyed believe that antisemitism is taken less seriously than other forms of bigotry. And during the war in Israel in May of last year, antisemitism spiked. From May 11, 2021 (the start of the conflict) to the end of May, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported 251 incidents of antisemitism in the US. This was a 115% increase when compared to May 2020.
It’s incredibly alarming that just 76 years after the worst genocide in history, antisemitism is on the rise again. Several of my friends experienced antisemitic remarks due to their religion and the blood that runs through their bodies. I have also experienced hateful Jewish comments and jokes throughout my life.
Due to the pandemic, antisemitism spiked. On social media and in public places, people are comparing mask and vaccine mandates to the restrictions that the Jewish people faced during the Holocaust. People are starting to wear yellow Stars of David to symbolize their protests against the Coronavirus and lockdowns. But, it's not just average American citizens that are participating in these Coronavirus-Holocaust comparisons, our politicians are also spreading these vile sentiments. Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican House member from Georgia, compared the House of Representative’s Mask mandates to the treatment Jews experienced during the Holocaust.
Over the past three years, three synagogues experienced attacks. One of them was the Chabad of Poway, 18 minutes from our school. A gunman opened fire on congregants as they prayed. Three people were injured, and one congregant member was murdered. Just a couple weeks ago, an armed man held four Jews ---- including a rabbi ---- hostage in a Colleyville, Texas synagogue. After 11 terrifying hours, they were released unharmed, but the need for armed guards at synagogues were reinforced.
Locally, in our school district, two swastikas were found spray-painted in the Torrey Pines bathroom just over a month ago. As a Jewish student in this district, I was heartbroken when I heard what occurred. It was a grim reminder that no matter where someone goes, a Jewish person cannot escape antisemitism. Joey Weisman, a sophomore at Torrey Pines, felt that “this was a pure act of stupidity and can be appropriately fixed by better education in the community.” Many people agree with Joey including the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). They believe that a crucial way to eradicate antisemitism is through education systems. To solve this international crisis, UNESCO presumes that the international community must “recognize antisemitism as a problem to be addressed…, develop education programs that address antisemitism in a framework of human rights and global citizenship, build the capacity of educational systems to address antisemitism, conspiracy theories and all other forms of hate speech, and an increased investment in social cohesion.”
Across the country in New Jersey, Alex Milman, a junior at Eastern Regional High School, says he has been made fun of for being Jewish. "The Holocaust had been joked about almost daily when we were learning about it.” Along with the jokes, his school “had graffiti that glorified Hitler.” Antisemitism is an epidemic that has spread everywhere. The same incidents that are happening on the West Coast of the U.S. are happening on the East Coast.
Organizations like the ADL and the AJC are combating antisemitism every day. With their resources the ADL has an education program that provides training for educators of all grades and works with government officials to create and pass legislation. The AJC works directly with government officials on every level to design and pass legislation that protects American Jews from antisemitism.
Just 76 years after the Holocaust, American Jews are still facing some of the things that our ancestors experienced. I think Jack Elice, a junior at Moses Brown School in Rhode Island, put it perfectly when he said “It’s the subtle things. It’s the Hitler comment directed at the Jewish kid in the class. It’s the Swastika drawn on the bathroom wall. They don’t seem big, but when they fail to be addressed, it’s normalized. The little things have been ignored, they’ve added up, and it’s become an almost daily thing that a Jewish student hears or sees something antisemitic.” We need more education in our schools to combat this rise in antisemitism, and we must have legislation that protects the Jewish citizens of America. As a country that prides itself on being free, just, and equal, we must make sure everyone is protected.