Column: Should we be worried that anti-Semitism is growing?

Students from the Yeshiva School in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh pay their respects as the funeral procession for Dr. Jerry Rabinowitz passes their school en route to Homewood Cemetery on Oct. 30, 2018, following a funeral service at the Jewish Community Center. Rabinowitz was one of several people killed in a mass shooting while worshipping at the Tree of Life synagogue three days earlier. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

With rising extremism in today’s political climate, it is inevitable to see more hate crimes and acts of radicalism around the country. Examining the changes in attitude towards different racial and religious groups is crucial to identifying potential threats to the safety of the people within those groups. As an Israeli-American Jew, I feel impacted by acts of anti-Semitism, especially those that have appeared since the rise of extremism in American politics.

Since the tragic massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, there has been an eruption of anti-Semitic offenses throughout the country. On Nov. 28, there was an incident at Stanford University. “Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (investigated) the appearance of a crudely drawn swastika that was etched onto the lid of a piano at Bing Concert Hall.”

One day later, on Nov. 29, there was another at Columbia University. “Columbia University professor's office was vandalized with two spray-painted swastikas and a derogatory word aimed at Jewish people.”

In just one month, there have been at least three major hate crimes directed at the Jewish-American population. This raises a great deal of concern regarding the safety of openly practicing Judaism in America.

A few years ago, a student from my high school and my water polo teammate started an Instagram account that he used to make anti-Semitic threats and comments against us. As some of my friends and I were away at college, his threats did not affect us as directly as they did my brother and the current water polo team. The parents of all the Jewish students on the team discussed the appropriate response to this hate and decided to file a police report but insisted on keeping the matter private from the media. The reasoning behind this was that giving publicity to hate crimes can sometimes trigger more hate. This reaction is an alternative to giving media attention to these acts, which might raise awareness and promote advocacy against future hate crimes. The controversy between these two reactions reflects both the fear hate crimes evoke and the need to advocate change to prevent future hate crimes.

In times of hate and violence toward a certain race, ethnicity or religion, it is crucial that communities unite in support of social justice and acceptance to hinder the spread of hate. Uniting communities and protecting them from acts of persecution should be a national priority, even above gun control regulations. Where freedoms clash with safety, we should always choose safety. That is, that when the argument that loose gun laws inhibit civilian safety, the government should regulate the right to bear arms to minimize this threat. Without diving into this controversy, it is clear that we need to limit access to guns because that will decrease the rate of mass shootings, like that in Pittsburgh.

The growing rate of hate crimes poses concern for safety, but also implies a hostile political climate. On a governmental level, the extremist drift in both directions effectuates acts of extremism, which often come in the form of violence. On a local level, the debate within Jewish communities on how to react to acts of hate, specifically anti-Semitism, should not blind us from our one common cause: promoting peace and safety. The government needs to work with the communities to make every possible effort to make them safe from hate crimes to protect human life in America.


Keren Blaunstein is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus.  She can be reached via email at keren.blaunstein@uconn.edu.