It is scary when people don’t realize that anti-Semitism exists today. Throughout history, the persecution of Jews often involved violence rather than a silent hatred, and without recognition of modern day anti-Semitism, the possibility that history could repeat itself becomes more and more likely.
I had provided a real-life anecdote of my own experience with anti-Semitism in a story for my creative writing class, and many non-Jewish people in my class commented that they felt the situation wouldn’t happen today — maybe in the 1950s, but certainly not in present-day America.
The fact that non-Jewish young people do not understand the extent to which anti-Semitism still exists today is concerning and upsetting. When I explained to my class that my anecdote was actually non-fiction, they could hardly believe it.
While it is easier and more comforting to think that the fall of Adolf Hitler brought with it the fall of anti-Semitism, that prejudice is alive and well in the world today. There is a lack of visibility surrounding the issue, and the non-Jews who do not see anti-Semitism continue to believe that there is nothing there to see. That lack of acknowledgement, whether intentional or not, is dangerous.
One needs to look no further than The New York Times to see this. The paper of record has an entire topic page on their website dedicated to news on modern-day anti-Semitism. Bomb threats at Jewish community centers, vandalism of Jewish graveyards and daily threats to Jewish people are chronicled, with the most recent post dated March 6, 2017. The mere existence of that section proves that the issue is alive and well.
Jewish people endure small acts of anti-Semitism everyday. One Jewish Emory student stated that on a visit to Wonderful Wednesday, she was handed a Bible. When they declined it by saying that they were Jewish, the student was told that it was why they needed it even more.
That type of everyday anti-Semitism can often go unnoticed, but it is a dangerous prejudice that needs to be addressed. It’s obvious that large-scale acts such as bomb threats to Jewish community centers must be noticed, reported and hopefully prevented. But those smaller acts, such as anti-Semitic comments, go unmentioned and perpetuate dangerous stereotypes that, when unnoticed, can grow and seep into the everyday lives of others, much like what happened in 1925 when Hitler’s rise to power began in Germany and small prejudices against Jews — such as Hitler’s blaming Jewish people for Germany’s loss in World War I — began to permeate everyday life in Germany.
The Jewish people have faced adversity and violence throughout history and if we do not acknowledge and educate the public about such continued hatred, we run the risk of repeating a past of exile, violence and genocide. Yes, large-scale acts of anti-Semitism are important to focus on, but just like all types of prejudice and discrimination, it is dangerous to disregard the small-scale offences that prevail in everyday life.
Annie Cohen is a College freshman from New Orleans, Louisiana.