At 12:30 pm, on January 6, 2021, I opened my computer to see an Apple News update, saying that Trump supporters, leaving one of his rallies in Washington, were marching to the Capitol building. I clicked on the news icon, immediately thinking of the White House protests that I was familiar with: formidable, enraged, but peaceful. I began reading one article, and then another, and then I became so engulfed in a torrent of breaking headlines that I almost forgot to go to class. As I tried to listen to my teacher, I followed the MAGA clad, weapon-toting rioters as they reached the Capitol, and then climbed the Capitol steps. I followed them as they broke through the windows, entered the building, and as they desecrated art. As they came into Congress’ chambers, posing at Nancy Pelosi and Mike Pence’s desks, holding up cameras and streaming their accomplishments. I watched as people were trampled, ribs were cracked, police were beaten and, as I found out later, people died. My eyes were scanning past headlines and subtitles, trying to keep up with the developments, so it was only days later that I saw the photos. Two photos. A man, standing nonchalantly in the capitol, his sweatshirt proudly emblazoned with the words “Auschwitz: Staff Member,” and another man, standing in the back of a photo of protesters, wearing a shirt with an acronym spelling out “Six Million Wasn’t Enough.”
I live in a fairly insular Jewish bubble. I went to Jewish day school from preschool to eighth grade, I go to a Jewish summer camp every summer, and I currently attend a Jewish high school. And so, when we have had presentations about anti-Semetism in America, I’ve always enthusiastically echoed their words about the need to speak out about anti-Jewish hatred, but I never quite understood the urgency. I knew of the anti-Semetism in Europe. And I was, of course, shocked and horrified by the shootings in American synagogues, by the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, by the stabbings, and the intimidations. But, a phrase always echoed throughout my mind, and I’m sure in the minds of many others: isolated incident. It was an isolated incident. The white-supremacy rallies, the occasional slip-ups of Congress members who alluded to violent or otherwise inappropriate behavior and then had to apologize profusely on Twitter, the claims that a “civil war” was imminent were isolated incidents as well. But then January 6th came, and it was no longer an isolated incident.
After the attack on the Capitol building, I became increasingly aware of anti-Semetic occurrences in the news. Whereas before I may have been mildly disturbed by the hatred, every article now seemed like a clarion call to all Jews: beware. Beware, said Mary Miller, a freshman Representative from Illinois, who, at a Moms for America rally, said, “Hitler was right on one thing: He said, ‘Whoever has the youth, has the future.’” She used this as an argument against “propagandizing the youth,” completely missing the point that Hitler was making: if we use propaganda to control the youth, we control the future. Although she was unequivocally condemned by Holocaust survivors, politicans across the aisle, and Jews across the nation, she initially defended her statement. Before she eventually issued an apology, Moms of America continued to support her, even posting this ominous message on their Facebook: “[t]ruth is truth no matter the source.” A candidate for Staten Island borough president, Leticia Remauro, withdrew recently after making a video of herself at an anti-mask rally using the phrase that for me, has always seemed like the biggest taboo: “Heil Hitler.” After widespread condemnation for likening the behavior of mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Cuomo to that of a Nazi dictator, she withdrew her candidecy, and withdrew as the chair of the board of Staten Island Hebrew Public Charter School. But the month of January has shown that anti-Semitism is not just verbal. Sometimes, anti-Semites don’t have to say anything to make their point. Sometimes, they just have to put it on a shirt.
Freshman US Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has been condemned recently for supporting theories created by the fringe conspiracy theory group Q-Anon, many members of whom were at the capital riot. In a recently unearthed Twitter post, Rep. Greene claimed that, in essence, “a devastating wildfire that ravaged California was started by ‘a laser’ beamed from space and controlled by a prominent Jewish banking family with connections to powerful Democrats.” This along with some of her other beliefs have shocked many across the nation. Although she has rescinded some of these statements, assuring Congress that she does believe that the Parkland shooting was real and that 9/11 did happen, she continues to be supported by members of Congress. Despite a push from Jewish Republicans in Congress to discipline Rep. Greene, only 11 Republicans voted to punish Greene by removing her from the Education and Budget Committees. The idea that any person who espouses these stereotype-laden conspiracy theories can be elected to American government is entirely incomprehensible. Anti-semitism is no longer confined to white-spremacist rallies or social media. It has unabashedly and boldly infiltrated the highest levels of our government. Whether it is reliance on anti-Semetic tropes or anti-Semitism veiled by anti-Zionism, anti-Jewish sentiment in the government is disturbing in all of its forms. It is no longer an isolated incident.
I still live in an insular Jewish bubble. But I no longer believe that our government is immune from the virulent hatred seen at the Capitol breach. Our democracy is like any other system: delicate, fallible, and vulnerable. It is our job to make sure that we do not allow the anti-Semitism of the capital riots and of current Congress members to continue to spread throughout our government. Because hatred is no longer comfortable to stay in the shadows. It has reared its ugly head above Parler and Gab, and shocked millions of Jewish Americans. For all of those who have fallen prey to the mindset that I adopted for so many years, the feeling of passive indignation about anti-Semitism: we must realize that anti-Semitism is real, and it is here. And we must actively fight against it in all of its forms, so that we can preserve America’s reputation as a place of safety for the Jewish people. We must make our voices heard: anti-Semitism, on social media, on our streets, and in our government, is unacceptable. And we must fight to make sure that that is known.