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11/03/2022 10:47:28 AM

Nov3

Rabbi Jeffrey Myers

Some of you might remember the 1980’s movie franchise “Poltergeist”. At one point in the movie, the young daughter who is seated on the floor in front of the television turns to the audience and says, “They’re back”. Some might think the same thing when it comes to antisemites, except that in this case, they never left. What has changed is the rate of speed in which messages are shared globally, thus creating a new job description, if you will, of “influencer”. For those uninitiated, an influencer is someone who uses their celebrity or notoriety to influence the words and deeds of others through social media. The larger one’s horde of followers, the more potent the influencer.

We have witnessed the negative impact of influencers in social media as they spew forth their antisemitism, with the expected outcome that followers will be moved to speak and act to promote the influencer’s antisemitism. Prior to the emergence of social media, it took quite a bit for someone to gain enough national, if not international, attention for their antisemitism. The ubiquity of information feeds creates instantaneous responses, creating a social media world that more and more is a reflection of the real world.

Social scientists can always reference the presence of stressors on society that move people to foist blame on others for their own personal misfortunes. The Bubonic Plague from 1346 to 1353 led people to blame the Jews, whom they claimed poisoned the water wells, without recognizing that the rate of death in the Jewish community was equivalent to the non-Jewish community. It did not matter. A scapegoat was needed, and the Jews were readily available. Fast forward to COVID-19, where once again people blame the Jews for the pandemic, and then blame the Jews for the cure, stating that the Jews are seeking to increase their wealth while the world suffers.

A potential explanation is not an excuse for unacceptable behavior. Ever. It is not the responsibility of the Jewish community to defend themselves against antisemites. The victims are not at fault; the society that birthed antisemites is to blame. They are the ones to stop it, and as has been the case in the United States, few step up. There are those individuals and corporations who have spoken out loudly, and their rejection of antisemitism is appreciated. But there are not enough voices. Captains of all industries, athletes, entertainment professionals, and politicians, just to name a few fields, must use their influencer statuses to speak up. Their silence condones antisemitism. There is no gray area here. To borrow from Ibram X. Kendi, the author of “How to be an Antiracist”, either you are an antisemite or you are not.

At the funeral of President George H. W. Bush, Senator Alan Simpson stated that “H corrodes from the core”. We are witnessing the corrosion of the American core when antisemitism grows unabated. It doesn’t end with the Jews, it only begins. To rephrase the sermon of Pastor Martin Niemöller during WWII:

                They came for the Jews but I was silent, for I was not one.

                They came for the LGBTQ+ but I was silent, for I was not one.

                They came for the AAPI but I was silent, for I was not one.

                They came for the Black Americans but I was silent, for I was not one.

                They came for the newest immigrants but I was silent, for I was not one.

                They came for me and there was no one to speak up for me.

Fri, December 9 2022 15 Kislev 5783