These past few years have seen such an unprecedented growth of anti-semitism across the world. To say that Pittsburg was the start is to ignore the hate that has been manifesting itself since the election of our current president. Anti-semitism has always been present in American culture. General (and later President) Grant, during the civil war, attempted to expel all Jews from Tennessee, but the order was revoked by Lincoln. The 20th century had explicit prohibition of Jews from moving to certain neighborhoods, strict quotas of Jews allowed in universities, bans on Jews joining gyms or clubs, and barring them from resorts. Jews were accused of both being global capitalists out to control the world’s banking, and global communists out to spread Marx’s revolution. However, the past few decades oversaw what many were hoping for as full integration of Jews in American life. Restrictions were eventually dismantled, and many Jews are actively involved in public life from entertainment to politics. However, I fear that now the nation is descending further into anti-semitism.
According to the Anti Defamation League, there has been a fifty seven percent rise in anti-semitism last year alone. A recently announced CNN poll found that twenty eight percent of Europeans say “Jews have too much influence over finance around the world.” The same poll found that one third of Europeans “never heard of the Holocaust or know just a little about it.” That trend looks to only increase with the recent incident at Columbia University, when a professor’s office was vandalized with Swastikas. It is painful to write that Goucher College is added to that unfortunate statistic with the truly evil, cowardly racist graffiti next to a swastika. Other recent news in Baltimore saw the performance of Fiddler on the Roof, a story about the last few years of a Russian-Jewish community, including a pogrom or race riot and their forced exile, be interrupted by a man chanting “Heil Hitler, and Heil Trump” according to the Baltimore Sun.
At first such stories came from afar, incidents happening far away from the bubble of Goucher. It can be easy to write off and ignore such things, being in the North East and having the luxury of never personally experiencing anti-semitism. It only became apparent when such cowardly acts started spreading that we were never really safe. Now we can no longer ignore it, but we cannot really take a direct action.
Security cameras are not a solution; stopping every car that enters campus is not a solution; mandatory online classes are not a solution. The racists and bigots of the world are engaged in a culture war, in which they have built a false narrative of their victimhood to defend their actions. The more incidents that happen, the more bigots will be inspired to act. We must fight this war not with rules and restrictions from administrator but with peer education and leadership. It may be exceedingly overambitious to propose that we can stop the rise of anti-semitism around the world, but we cannot be apathetic to the increasingly dire situation. Anti-semitism and all forms of bigotry and racism must be combated, and we can make a difference at Goucher at least.
Student organizations must raise their voices. I applaud the powerful statements made at the rally in Mary Fisher a few weeks ago, unfortunately more needs to be done. Inviting a strong speaker to discuss and empower students is an option, alongside clubs and organizations having meetings and discussions about bigotry. But fundamentally the main struggle has to be fought between peers, not official organizations. Discussions among peers and stifling those who share bigoted feelings, not through patronizing them, but with thoughtful listening and explanation will be the most effective way. We as a community need to create a culture that does not tolerate anti semitism and bigotry, of any kind, Informal struggles, catching a racist comment here, or noticing and reporting swastika on a bathroom stall there. These things are not normal and we must not allow them to be normalized, especially in a time when they are becoming cripplingly routine.