RELIGOUS BACKLASH Junior Cameron Struble and countless others have faced harassment as a result of being Jewish.
RELIGOUS BACKLASH Junior Cameron Struble and countless others have faced harassment as a result of being Jewish.

Jewish hate: Harassment without consequence

Antisemitism is infecting the United States at an alarming rate, hurting proud Jews like me and dividing society as a whole.

I am a proud Ashkenazi Jew. My religion is present in all aspects of my life and has an impact on how I function on a day-to-day basis. 

Judaism influences the way I dress and the way I prepare food. During high holidays such as Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, I dress modestly, cover my hair and use that time to bring me closer to my faith. Learning Hebrew and Yiddish, the languages of my people, is incredibly important to me. 

I have been lucky enough to have never been personally attacked by hate speech. However, that does not mean I haven’t suffered its effects. Once, when my cousin and I were riding home on the bus, someone called him an antisemitic slur. Another time, someone pulled off my headscarf at school during a high holiday. Most notably, on Dec. 3, 2021, my friends and I truly feared for our lives. 

During Chanukkah of that year, I was scrolling on Instagram and saw a threat to kill all the Jews at school. I felt terrified to go to school. I feared for my life and the lives of all my Jewish friends. My group of Jewish friends made a group chat for us to check in on one another. We all told our parents, and a lot of kids asked us to stay home. Many of us left school early because we didn’t feel safe. 

Fortunately, there was no shooting. But the entire situation was incredibly eye-opening. I am so thankful that my teacher at the time gave us a safe space to talk about how we felt. 

Although nothing came of the threat, a high level of school police surrounded the school. The person who posted the threat was never caught, and I am still furious that this person wasn’t looked into further because this one person caused so many students so much fear and pain. 

Looking back now, I am deeply saddened by the hate that fuels people to the point of wanting to hurt other human beings simply for having different beliefs.

Everyday, antisemitic situations strike a little too close to home for Jewish students all across the country. 

And with the recent attack on Israel by Hamas, dividing opinions on Jews are once again at the forefront of our news and social media feeds.

I believe free speech should have limitations, especially when it comes to hate speech. Yes, it is your right to freely speak your mind, but when those thoughts start turning into threats against people for being of a certain race, religion or sexual orientation, I don’t think that should fall under free speech.

Inciting violence is not protected under free speech, and it could be argued that spreading hate speech can influence violence and definitely cause harm to these groups of people. The First Amendment is often used as a cushion for dangerous people to influence young minds into hate, all in the name of free speech.

There are times when people mistake my personal choices as religious mandates. For example, people think that the reason I’m vegetarian is because I’m Jewish, but that is a completely different part of who I am. I am vegetarian because of my views on animal cruelty, not my religion. 

In our society, people often hear the word antisemitic and correlate it with other semitic languages, like Arabic, Amharic and many others. However, the term antisemitism specifically refers to Jewish hate and discrimination. 

A common misconception is that antisemitism started at the beginning of the Holocaust and ended after World War 2. There are also so many harmful stereotypes about the Jewish community that all classify as forms of antisemitism and often get thrown around as “jokes” due to lack of knowledge. Antisemitism is still very much alive today, and now, in the new age of social media, it is more accessible than ever. It is crucial to stay educated on subject matter such as this. Misinformation and lack of education only fuel the fire of hate and bigotry.

Hate speech is becoming more and more normalized in our country to the point where people might not even realize that what they are saying is wrong and that they are actively contributing to the oppression of Jewish people. Social media fuels hate speech in an unimaginable way. Social media also makes hate speech more accessible to a wider audience of people, especially younger generation groups who do not understand the harm that their words cause. Social media spreads hate speech to so many more people in the form of graphic images and memes to make it more accessible to everyday persons regardless of the language barrier from country to country. In addition, the lack of monitoring and the power of anonymity provides those who wouldn’t normally say or support these types of messages the “freedom” and courage to say them without consequence, much like in our experience on Dec. 3.

Hate speech should never be taken as a joke. The “jokes” aren’t funny, and they normalize hate. These are real people with real feelings, and the fact that a lot of us don’t feel safe in our own school speaks volumes. The place where we are supposed to learn and grow into functioning members of society now makes us scared to love who we are and where we come from, and that is not okay. 

To the people who “ joke” about our pain, you should be ashamed of yourself, for we are all humans. Tearing other people down for who they are will only make a hate-filled world where no one can be happy. I don’t think people contributing to this oppression know that what they are doing is wrong. Hate is ancestral, and people need to take a look inside themself and see what they are doing to other people.

I don’t think you should ever fully move on from situations like these, in the sense of forgetting what happened, because that’s how history repeats itself. However, we need to learn and grow as a society and recognize actions like those are never okay for any group of people, especially toward groups who are systematically hated. 

We should always continue to educate ourselves about those who are different from us and our experiences. I know there will always be lots of questions surrounding Jewish culture, and I welcome that. Just remember, you can always ask, and Google is free, but always vet your sources. 

We need to move forward as a society into better, more understanding people who try to treat others with kindness in mind. Education is the biggest way to stop hate speech.  This can be done by teaching and including each other in what everybody’s different holidays mean or why a person wears a certain garment. This will make us see ourselves as unified despite the differences, instead of strange and scary only because we’re different. 

As the conversation escalates, with everyone demanding to pick a side, I stand on the side of peace, safety and the innocent people being murdered.  We should take a step back from the political propaganda that is being thrown around on both sides and look at the victims that are being affected and the lives that are being lost overall. We as a world need to educate ourselves and see these people as the humans they are, who hurt, bleed and deserve to live.

The abridged version of this article appeared in the Fall 2023 print edition. This is an uncut version.

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