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Antisemitism is a horrible evil that we must fight

Jefferson warned the world about the ancient evil of antisemitism. He knew that America was an "antidote." We must fill that role once more and stand up to defend Jewish people.

In 1818, former president Thomas Jefferson wrote that though antisemitism was widespread and ancient, there was a hope against it: America.

Our nation, in his words, was "the only antidote to this vice." Our Constitution protects religious freedoms and places every citizen, no matter their faith, on "equal footing." Throughout America’s history, millions of Jews have found a home and flourished in our country.
Today, though, this historic bond is facing its strongest test since the Greatest Generation defeated Nazi Germany. Antisemitism is rising at rates unseen in living memory, posing a threat to the tolerance and pluralism that define America and make it exceptional.


Antisemitism most assuredly cannot merely be stopped but its lies disproven and its adherents defeated. 

Hamas’ murder of 1,200 Israelis and the Jewish state’s determination to defend itself did not so much unleash a wave of antisemitism, but provided a moment for its believers to bring their hatred into the open.

Since that terrible day, antisemitic incidents have increased by nearly 400%, according to the Anti-Defamation League. In October congressional testimony, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Christopher Wray confirmed that threats to Jewish citizens have reached "historic levels."

For sobering context, Jewish Americans constitute just over 2% of our population but are the target for over 60% of religious hate crimes nationwide.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen: 

In an age when we are so quick to decry injustices, where is the outrage over these acts of discrimination?
Instead of anger, those who make a vocation of demonstrating their own righteousness have gone quiet, indulged in reprehensible moral equivalency regarding October 7, or worse, applauded Hamas’ barbarity.

Commentators have sought to contextualize the massacre of Jewish men, women and children, or claimed that we are all complicit in their deaths. Educators have been too slow to condemn antisemitism, downgrading it in some sort of hierarchy of offenses, cloaking mass murder in social justice doublespeak. All while a few irresponsible politicians have mouthed genocidal slogans and repeated lies about Israel. 

As technology evolves and our understanding of so many natural phenomena increases, it is comforting to hope that our morality inevitably evolves as well. History proves otherwise. 

Tragically, old hatreds remain ingrained. We are clearly susceptible to the same prejudices Jefferson lamented over two centuries ago. But we still have a uniquely American means of fighting intolerance at our disposal. 

Jefferson and his peers designed and left us a republic. Our citizenship in it comes with responsibilities. Participation in a democratic society presupposes discernment, judgment against a certain standard of public comportment. And these judgments cannot be limited to Election Day. We have to make judgments every day about what is right and wrong, virtuous and unvirtuous. 

Now is such a moment. 

Confronted with the largest loss of Jewish life since the Holocaust and a wave of antisemitism, Jewish Americans are fighting back. Students are shunning universities that tolerate antisemitism or have refused to condemn Hamas’ killing spree, such as Cornell, Harvard and the University of Pennsylvania, while some alumni have ended their donations to these same schools.

Young and old have marched in support of Israel and against antisemitism, most beautifully evidenced by the peaceful gathering on the National Mall in November.
Americans, regardless of their faith, should emulate this resolve.

Government cannot change what lives in the hearts of its citizens. Clearly, the classroom is no safeguard against hate. And in America, everyone is free to speak their mind, no matter how abhorrent the thoughts.

But in return, we are called upon to judge that speech harshly, to forcefully refute false equivalency between terrorists and their victims. We should not hesitate to condemn those who espouse antisemitic rhetoric and the institutions that harbor them.
Nor should we indulge in superficial slogans such as "who am I to judge?" or "both sides are guilty" or forget that evil can never be excused — and that includes the evil of violence and discrimination against Muslim Americans. 


Biting our tongue in the face of evil may save citizens the hassle and discomfort of subjecting our own views to neighborly scrutiny. But when we fail to defend what is true and right, especially when it is difficult to do so, we are left with an impaired public discourse.

Sadly, over time, our penchant for silence enables an increasingly nihilistic political culture — one, like today, in which morally abhorrent concepts like genocide are able to take root, grow and become normalized as accepted or even acceptable. 

Lastly, let there be no doubt: our fight against antisemitism requires continued support of Israel in its just war against Hamas. 

History teaches that, when democratic peoples are seduced into silence in the presence of evil, horrors follow that they later vow to never let happen again. Now, in the aftermath of an attempted genocide in Israel – and in the face of increasing antisemitism at home – we must not remain silent or abdicate our responsibility as citizens, as Americans. 

If we fail to do so, generations from now, history’s judgment will be upon us all. 


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