How to Stop the Mainstreaming of Anti-Semitism in America

Posted on: Wednesday, 20 November 2019

Anti-Semitism has been a nasty feature of American life for many decades. In surveys of public attitudes, Jews have often been identified negatively by the general American population, especially in relation to the dominant white Christian population.

A number of sociological studies suggest that anti-Semitism may have generally decreased since the high point of Jewish migration to the United States in the early 1900s, although it is clearly still quite evident. Jewish men and women now have high rates of marriage outside their religious group.

Pearl Rotarians heard on November 19th from Robert Horenstein, Director of Community Relations for the Jewish Federation of Portland. Robert argued that anti-Semitism is on the increase these days. He is devoted much attention to discussions with a variety of groups in the Portland area to build coalitions which could be formed to combat hate's negative effects. Bob would especially like to form coalitions with other minority groups in the American population.

To support his analysis, Robert cites a number of surveys of the American Jewish population. For instance, he reported that one in four American Jews complain about personal treatment due to their religious identification. According to his data, 89 percent of Jews say that anti-Semitism is a problem for their community. Robert also uses data from the Southern Poverty Law Center to point out that about 60 percent of 2017 hate crimes involved Jews. He stated anti-Semitism is being institutionalized in American society by which he seems to mean, it is increasingly being accepted as a normal part of everyday living.

There are some specific social trends that especially concerning. One is the increasing antagonism of right-wing and left-wing groups to Jewish or pro-Jewish speakers. He cited several incidents on educational campuses, often considered sites of open intellectual debate, about whether anti-Jewish speakers should be permitted. In general, he said, educational administrators are too eager to surrender to complaints about pro-Jewish speakers.

Robert also expressed concern about the treatment of Israel as a country, feeling that much of the current antagonism (that exists) is driven by anti-Semitic attitudes. He told the Rotarians that Israel deserves the support of the world’s population because it is the only Jewish homeland in the world.

The speaker urged Rotarians to “support Israel when we are talking about support for the land of Israel, not support for any specific government.”

Robert admitted, “I’m no fan of the current prime minister (Benjamin Netanyahu).” He indicated that the vast majority of Jews did not support Netanyahu but they, like others, could (and should) support the existence of Israel.

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