As tensions rise around the world as Israel prepares its response to the Hamas attack on October 7 terrorist attacks American Jews have become the target of growing anti-Semitic hatred.
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Michigan, told News21USA News Digital about the situation in her state. “Normally we get [reports of] two or three incidents per week. In three weeks, between October 7 and 21, we obtained 61 [reports]Normandin said. He hesitated to label this as a more than 600% increase in reports, noting that there have been duplicate reports of identical incidents. Nationally, the ADL reported that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 388% during the same period from last year.
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In addition to a series of threats made through social media, Normandin said his office has reviewed and responded to in-person attacks. In one incident, stones were thrown at Jews in Michigan. In another, an individual called a doctor’s office and made threats related to the conflict in Israel against a Jewish doctor.
Jewish-owned businesses have been targeted by individuals making “hateful outbursts or messages” such as “shut it down” outside their establishments. The rock, a landmark at Michigan State University, was defaced with the phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” which is a call to wipe Israel off the map. Normandin said the conflict has even spread to the K-12 environment, where high school students “misinterpret what they see” and wear clothing reminiscent of ISIS. [fighters.]”
As is the case across the country, most of the incidents reported in Michigan involve rallies in which protesters shouted inflammatory calls for violence, “celebrating[ed] the killing of civilians” or “questioning[ed] that Hamas [carried out] The attacks.”
While Normandin said left-wing groups have been responsible for most of the rhetoric at protests and rallies, right-wing groups “have co-opted and joined in,” spreading conspiracy theories and challenging the accuracy of verified accounts of the murders of 1,400 civilians by Hamas.
Noting that “there is definitely anxiety in the Jewish community and a real concern about security,” he praised authorities for stepping up their security efforts “without being asked” and “responding without hesitation” to requests for additional patrols when the people are threatened.
To quell hate, ADL is working with local leaders who can spread messages of unity and tolerance. The organization also has a significant collection of online resources that explain the true meaning of chants prevalent at anti-Israel demonstrations, such as calls to “intifada“, which refers to periods of deadly attacks against Israeli civilians, or “Khaybar Khaybar ya yahud”, a arabic singing referring to an ancient battle in which local Jews were massacred.
Many of these incendiary chants have been heard on university campuses across the country, which have been hotbeds of the anti-Israel fervor.
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David Bernstein, author of Woke Antisemitism, and founder and executive director of the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values, told News21USA News Digital that antisemitism on campuses is the “inevitable consequence of years of teaching… that America can be clearly divided between the oppressors and the oppressed.” In this environment, Bernstein said, students “have been indoctrinated into this idea that… whatever is done to Israel is justified.”
Bernstein’s organization seeks to fight this ideology, which he admits is a “generational challenge” by confronting the dangerous biases of tenured professors who promote intolerance. In the face of what he called the “total tsunami” of left-wing anti-Semitism on campuses, Bernstein insisted that “we need Jewish students to express their pride and solidarity.”
Many groups are helping students feel safe to speak. Rabbi Shmuli Zema is the senior director of development for the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Campus Learning Initiative (JLIC), which provides assistance to Jewish students seeking support as they practice their faith and prepare for future leadership roles. Zema told News21USA News Digital that students at the campuses JLIC supports “have faced a complete paradigm shift” since October 7.
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After being “yelled at, jeered at, jeered at, locked in conference rooms [and] physically threatened,” Zema said many are “afraid to say what they believe.” Since October 7, Zema and JLIC have focused on supporting the emotional well-being of students and providing security for Jewish events that JLIC organizes. Additionally , JLIC is working to educate campuses so that protesters can enjoy freedom of expression without impeding the freedom of religion and expression of Jewish students.
Off campus, American Jews face safety concerns associated with their religious identities. Richard Priem, chief operating officer and deputy national director of Community Security Services (CSS), a nonprofit organization that has trained 3,500 community members to provide security at more than 350 synagogues in CSS’ national network.
Priem told News21USA News Digital that CSS had seen “an increase in requests for its services over the last five years… but what we’ve seen since October 7 is unlike anything we’ve seen before.” CSS is now inundated with requests for training because American Jews of all ages want to “secure our synagogues and our events so that we can continue to be proud Jews in the United States.”
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Security concerns have changed since the Hamas attacks. Priem recalled how some CSS volunteer security staff were recently confronted by protesters outside a synagogue. “Targeting the Jews because [protesters] “What we have a problem with Israel is anti-Semitism,” Priem said. “That’s something we’ve seen now that we haven’t seen before.”
In addition to new threats related to the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Priem said CSS continues to respond to bomb threats and harassment campaigns from right-wing groups who “didn’t come in at lunchtime because they thought anti-Israel extremists had it covered,” he explained.
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In addition to increasing its training efforts, CSS hopes to grow its Interfaith Safety Service, an effort that has allowed New York-based institutions to share best practices with other members of the minority community who are subject to harassment and violence.
Priem said these efforts “are small steps we can all take to be there for each other when the other needs it.” [and] “Speak out and bring to light the immorality of what is happening… and the impact it has on everyday people.”