Anti-Semitism in the Age of Trump: "I have a message for the rabbi " sputtered the voice as I picked up the phone.

Author:Zimmerman, Laurie
Position:Essay
 
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"I am the rabbi," I responded.

Surprised to be speaking directly to me, the caller continued: "I want to tell you what I think about what you said about those boys in Baraboo."

He was referring to the talk I gave at Baraboo High School in south-central Wisconsin on November 19, after a photograph circulated on social media of a large group of boys posing in a Nazi salute. I had been invited to speak at a community gathering. My congregants were the school's only two Jewish students.

"They weren't doing a Nazi salute," the caller argued defensively.

"Actually, some of them were." I explained that several boys had already come forward to apologize.

"Well, they didn't mean anything by it."

"Maybe, but real harm was still done."

"They were having fun. Can't you just laugh it off? It wasn't like they were wearing brown uniforms."

It's true, they weren't wearing brown uniforms. But my, how our standards have fallen, I thought.

The next day, an old friend sent me a link to an op-ed, "Europe's Jew Hatred, and Ours," by Bari Weiss, a conservative New York Times writer.

Weiss begins by addressing European anti-Semitism and then pivots to the United States. While she briefly acknowledges that the biggest threat to American Jews comes from the far right, she spends far more time highlighting Muslim attacks on Jews and deplores the "hatred from the left, which comes cloaked in the language of progressive values." Weiss concludes by vaguely insinuating that this is what will lead to another Holocaust.

While some Muslims, like others, hold anti-Semitic views, and conspiracy theorists have historically found a political home on the left, I believe that white supremacy poses a far greater threat to American Jews. At a time when President Donald Trump is condoning anti-Semitism and imparting legitimacy to white nationalists, we should focus our efforts to fight anti-Semitism on those who have the potential to cause us the greatest harm.

Understanding anti-Semitism can be difficult because false accusations of anti-Semitism abound. An extensive pro-Netanyahu campaign designed to undermine the Palestinian fight for freedom frequently targets American activists with charges of anti-Semitism. Not only does this stifle free speech but it distracts us from the white nationalists who are driving anti-Semitic discourse and committing anti-Semitic acts.

Just before the 2016 presidential election, I was invited to speak to mental health providers at the University of Wisconsin as part of their diversity training. A spate of anti-Semitic memes, tweets, and videos had materialized during the campaign. White supremacists had gone on the offensive...

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