Four years since Tree of Life massacre, antisemitism still on the rise

Last Thursday was the fourth October 27th since the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, and antisemitism is in the news once again. We are reminded that hatred of the Jewish people endures; that it flares in times of political and economic uncertainty; and that antisemitic signals from prominent people serve as beacons of hate that draw bigots into the public square — and risk drawing them into action.

Just last week, one of the most famous music artists in the world — Ye, formerly known as Kanye West — was dropped by his corporate partners after he used several antisemitic tropes in interviews and on social media. But that didn’t bring the saga to an end.


News outlets in Los Angeles have since reported multiple antisemitic incidents around the city, apparently in support of the celebrity. The Los Angeles Holocaust Museum offered Ye an educational tour — and, according to the museum, was immediately swamped with “hate, threats and vitriol” on social media.

And the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, Doug Mastriano, has at the very least winked at antisemitism by associating with the social media site Gab and its avowedly antisemitic founder, Andrew Torba. While Mastriano ended his relationship with the website, he has refused to condemn it, even though his posts there consistently generated antisemitic remarks about his Jewish opponent, Josh Shapiro.

Last year, western Pennsylvania suffered 21 antisemitic attacks, a rise from 11 the year before, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Most were verbal, but some were physical. In June, for example, someone attacked a Jewish man walking home from religious services, and in November, someone vandalized a Jewish home with a swastika and smashed in their car’s windshield.

When prominent people speak antisemitically or simply associate themselves with those who do, they signal approval of the hatred of Jews. They tell the extremists that they’re not really extreme, because influential people agree with them.

History teaches that antisemitism can quietly fester for a long time until it suddenly consumes entire societies or subcultures.

That’s why, right now and at all times, it’s the duty of every person to be vigilant about antisemitic ideas and conspiracies, to denounce the lies, and to shun those who spread them.

The only way to defeat antisemitism is to make it unthinkable. That task, never fulfilled over many centuries, falls now to us.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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