As a middle-class, white Ashkenazi Jew living in California in 2016, I’ve been privileged to avoid the systemic, cultural and interpersonal racism faced by many Muslims, immigrants and people of color across the U.S. today.
However, my uncle was not as fortunate. He was a Holocaust survivor who saw his entire family killed in front of him in a concentration camp. Although overt, violent anti-Semitism is largely absent from the United States and has not been part of my experience, I’ve begun to see a shift in the past six months.
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has forced me and thousands of other American Jews to face anti-Semitic threats for the first time. Throughout the election cycle, Jews have used a hashtag created by Bend the Arc Jewish Action, #WeveSeenThisBefore, as a reminder that Trump’s rhetoric and bigotry echo demagogues of the past.
After a national anti-Trump rally organized by Bend the Arc in June made the hashtag viral on social media, anti-Semitic white supremacists got hold of it and twisted it to spread hate on Twitter, specifically targeting Jews like myself who were organizing against Trump.
The least-hurtful attacks spoke of big noses, bad hair and “going back to Israel,” but then came the explicit threats of violence. In my case, I was bombarded with horrifying Photoshopped images of my face in a cartoon gas chamber, with Trump pushing the button.
Even though I am not a journalist or a political professional, I feel desensitized to most internet hate. But this hit particularly close to home. I was shaken, my blood boiling and my anxiety rising, and I remembered my ancestors before me who were subjected to real, physical, bodily violence simply because they were Jews.
Thankfully, after I reported the attacks, at least one of the accounts was disabled by Twitter. I was also fortunate to receive support and encouragement on- and offline from friends and fellow volunteers.
The moment passed, but I continued to be reminded throughout the summer and fall that Trump’s campaign has given voice to extremely hateful white-supremacist rhetoric and brought it into the mainstream of American politics.
Over the past 16 months, Trump’s campaign has openly and unabashedly stirred up hatred against women, people of color, Muslims and immigrants. He has refused to condemn some of his explicitly white-supremacist alt-right supporters and has even promoted images and tweets created by these individuals on his own Twitter feed.
Trump has also recently incorporated the anti-Semitic trope of an international banker/media/elite conspiracy into his rhetoric, dog-whistling to the white-supremacist, neo-Nazi portion of his base.
My fellow Jews and I have refused to be intimidated by the vicious anti-Semitism of Trump’s online supporters. My activism is informed by the dedication of Jews throughout American history to fighting hatred, bigotry and oppression in all forms.
I proudly display a “Jews Reject Trump” sign on my bedroom wall and plan to work as hard as I can to ensure that he and his vitriolic hatred are defeated next Tuesday. The structures of oppression in our society will still exist even if Trump is defeated, and we must be committed to fighting them through November and beyond.
Jews have a moral obligation to act when others are threatened and targeted with violence and hatred. We must unite to make clear that this kind of hatred is unacceptable in modern America and that we are prepared to fight tooth and nail against white supremacy in all its ugly forms.
Let’s stand together as Jews and as concerned Americans to ensure Trump’s defeat. It’s incumbent on all of us to do more than just vote. Make phone calls at your local campaign office, go door to door in a swing state if you can, and talk to your community online and in person.
Jews have seen this kind of hatred before. Now we must show we are committed to ensuring that a demagogue like Trump never becomes president of the United States. See you at the polls.