Many Jews will testify that they are freer in the United States to live out their faith in ways that make sense to them than in any other country, even including Israel. (Many Muslims and people of other faith often say something similar, too.)
All of which may be true. But it does not mean that the ancient curse of toxic anti-Judaism and its more modern outgrowth, antisemitism, has disappeared.
In fact, it appears that this presidential election has unleashed a powerful strain of antisemitic poison that is ugly, growing and disgusting. For instance, Jane Eisner (pictured here), the editor-in-chief of the Jewish newspaper The Forward, has written this distressing piece describing what she has gone through in recent months.
She's used to various kinds of criticism that journalists inevitably receive, she writes, "But nothing quite prepared me for the slew of emails, five altogether, sent in the early hours of October 10 with messages such as: 'Shana Tova, Dirty Hooknosed KIKE rat! MAY IT BE YOUR LAST!'
"And: 'You would make a nice lampshade.'
"And: 'Trump supporters HATE KIKES! HAIL TRUMP!' That one was accompanied by an image of a Nazi soldier holding a gun to an image of my head photo-shopped onto a concentration camp uniform complete with the six-pointed yellow Jewish star."
This is not something that has happened just to Eisner of The Forward. Rather, as she wrote the other day, "The extent of this plague is now codified, thanks to a report released today by the Anti-Defamation League’s Task Force on Harassment and Journalism.
"The report proves beyond doubt that anti-Semitism against journalists on social media has increased dramatically during this election campaign and that Jews are by far the main targets. While the report takes pains to say that this surge is not caused directly by the Donald Trump campaign, it is driven in large measure by those who identify with his candidacy." (The folks who run Twitter have not been very helpful in stopping antisemitic tweets, by the way.)
This is one more wound America will have to try to heal once this presidential election is over. It won't be easy and it won't happen if people sloppily blame all Trump supporters for this antisemitic storm. But it will help if Trump himself, who has various personal ties to Jewish people, will be part of the post-election solution. That, however, may be a lot to hope for.
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WHAT HATE TALK CAN LEAD TO
Speaking of religious bigotry, I found this Daily Beast story a bit ironic. It describes how Christians in Liberal, Kan., are surprised and angered that three men from their area are charged with plotting terrorism against a mosque. Their denunciation of the plot is the good part of the story. The ironic part is that the town seems to be full of pro-Trump political signs. Maybe some of those Christian residents there haven't heard all the anti-Muslim trash-talking coming from Trump over recent months. Words have consequences, people, even if it can't be proven that Trump's words directly produced the terrorist plot (or the antisemitism I wrote about above). But when a presidential candidate talks that way, it creates an atmosphere in which Islamophobia has a chance to take root.