There has been a noticeable rise in anti-Semitic activities across the nation over the past few months, with the most recent high-profile case taking place in suburban St. Louis, where more than 150 gravestones were found damaged or toppled at a historic Jewish cemetery earlier this week.
In the wake of this attack — which led to a fundraising campaign by Muslim-Americans to help repair the damage — President Donald Trump took what some view as a more forceful attitude toward anti-Semitism. “I think it’s horrible,” President Trump said. “Whether it’s anti-Semitism or racism or any — anything you want to think about having to do with the divide. Anti-Semitism is, likewise, it’s just terrible.”
While some Jewish organizations reacted positively to the president’s statement, others questioned why it took him so long to make such a statement, or said his position barely scratched the surface of combating the rising tide of anti-Semitism, let alone anti-Muslim sentiments and America’s ever-present racial divide. The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect called Trump’s remarks “a Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his administration.”
In the past month, dozens of Jewish community center locations nationally have been evacuated due to anonymous bomb threats. On Wednesday morning, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) also received a bomb threat at its New York headquarters. Unfortunately, President Trump’s words do not match up well with his actions on this particular topic since beginning his political campaign. The past 18 months have seen plenty of questionable actions, ranging from the use of white nationalist images in campaign literature to the appointment of divisive right-wing opinion publisher Steve Bannon as his chief strategist — a move condemned by the ADL.
But the United States is not the only example of the rising tide of anti-Semitism. A number of Jewish communities in Europe have said they feel vulnerable to attack following recent terror attacks across the continent and want governments to dedicate extra policing and intelligence efforts to keep them safe. In France, anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, from 423 reported incidents to 851. From January to July, anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom increased by 11 percent, according to the UK’s Common Security Trust. Recently, a German court decided that the firebombing of a synagogue in Wuppertal was only the expression of “anti-Israeli sentiment.”
This prejudice is increasing, and it hits close to home. Southeast Florida — from West Palm Beach south to Miami — is home to one of the largest Jewish populations on the planet. Area leaders are concerned — rightfully so — that the more emboldened prejudice people feel, the worse attacks will be.
So, what can be done to stem this increase in anti-Semitism? The most obvious answer is that political leaders — in the United States and abroad — must strongly condemn such actions, and must not allow individuals with those views to have a powerful voice in government. This is easier said than done. But it must be done, and it is up to the people to continue voicing their opposition to such a dangerous situation. Even with this, it will be a long road. But it’s better to deal with this situation than ignore it. We know where that leads.