Anti-Semitism, Hitting Closer and Closer to Home
By Samantha Dubrinsky,
BJF Director of Community Impact
I remember vividly when I realized that the nationalist/ alt-right movement in Europe was gaining traction. I can still see in my mind the picture that went along with an article on the Times Of Israel’s website discussing France’s issues with the alt-right. The picture was of young men doing the Nazi salute. It was shocking to read about that trend many years ago. I remember, quite naively, feeling extremely grateful that nothing like that could happen in our country — the US, the land of the free — and that I would never have to encounter hatred and ugliness such as that which was rearing its nasty head in Europe.
The events of this past weekend demonstrated to me just how naïve I was. In Charlottesville, VA, deadly violence erupted during a rally by white supremacists/nationalists. Three people were killed and many were injured. And the minds of millions of Americans were shocked.
If you watch videos from the incident, you can hear people saying things such as, “Those rich Jews … are taking over the city,” “We will not let those Jews take over America,” and “Jews are Satan’s children”. You’ll even hear chants of “Jews will not replace us!” and “Blood and soil!” — a rough translation of a chant used by Nazis during World War II
I’ve also been surprised by some of the reactions I’ve heard to the events of this past weekend. Just earlier today, I asked a friend in a different social circle than I if her friends were talking about the Charlottesville events. “No,” she said. “They aren’t.” And, to be honest, a lot of my own friends aren’t talking about it either. This lack of acknowledgement and disregard of these serious and disturbing events is almost as troubling as the rhetoric and violence used this past weekend.
At the Birmingham Jewish Federation, one of our many roles is to fight anti-Semitism. We do this through a number of ways, including our outreach and education through Update. In the past several years, the emphasis on fighting significant anti-Semitism has been focused on countries in Europe which have deep roots in hate towards Jews. Now, our sights will be turned toward our local and national community as well. It’s important to our organization that we do everything in our power to prevent our Jewish community from experiencing what Charlottesville experienced over the weekend.
And, we do provide this service to our community. Over the years, we have faced anti-Semitism head-to-head and won. Whether it be the most recent event at Auburn University where the infamous white supremacist Richard Spencer spoke or the notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan visiting Birmingham to speak, the BJF has spoken out and made a difference in these situations.
We will not let the events of this past weekend define our country or our community. We will not stoop to the level of those defaming Jews. We will stand united and proud. And we at the Federation are here to serve as a safe haven, a resource and a significant player in the fight against anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us during these troubling times. Our door is always open.