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Antisemitism also affects our LGBTQ community

Anti-Semitism

This year, for International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, I joined the discussion about the book from Congregation Beth Israel of Merrimack Valley People love dead Jews by Dara Horn, exploring why anti-Semitism continues. Twelve days earlier, on January 15, during Shabbat prayers, a gunman held four hostages in an 11-hour standoff at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville. The terrorist act was a hate crime, the FBI said emphatically.

The ADL reported that attacks like these have increased by 60% recently. What is happening in America right now is not just a crisis for Jews. This is a crisis for this nation as a whole; it is an attack on what makes us all Americans. You don’t see anti-Semitism until something terrible happens.

Antisemitism should be linked to other hate crimes, like racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, to name a few, but understood as having distinct histories and motivations. Holocaust Remembrance Day reminds us of history. During the Holocaust, six million Jews were killed.

Nazi Germany’s plan to exterminate gay men is a classic example of how politics informed their science. Paragraph 175 of the German Penal Code distinguished between the type of persecution that non-German homosexuals suffered from German homosexuals due to a quasi-scientific and racist ideology of racial purity. “The policies of persecution carried out against non-German homosexuals in the occupied territories differed considerably from those directed against German homosexuals”, writes Richard Plant in The pink triangle: the Nazi war against homosexuals. “The Aryan race had to be freed from contagion; the disappearance of the peoples of degenerate subjects was to be accelerated.

Although laws against lesbianism were not codified and lesbians were not criminalized for their sexual orientations as gay men were, German women were nonetheless seen as a threat to the Nazi state. They cut a good figure during SS raids on lesbian bars, condemned by the Gestapo, sent to concentration camps and marked with a black triangle. In fact, any German woman, lesbian, prostitute, or heterosexual, who failed to live up to her primary gender role—”to be the mother of as many Aryan babies as possible”—was considered antisocial and hostile to the German state.

The false equivalence and revisionism of this fact is not only hurtful to Holocaust survivors, their families and friends, it also despises human carnage and crime against humanity.

In 2017, President Trump’s public statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day intentionally omitted any mention of Judaism, anti-Semitism, or the Nazis’ systematic program to exterminate European Jewry. While the president’s generic statement on suffering might have been intended to be a blanket acknowledgment of other groups killed – homosexuals, gypsies, political dissidents, non-Aryans, to name a few – by the Nazis, this did more harm than help.

Elie Wiesel, at the ceremony marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1995, said it best: “It is true that not all the victims were Jewish. But all Jews were victims. In other words, the elimination of the Jews was the central organizing principle of the rise of the “Third Reich”. The president’s statement acknowledging the Holocaust and not mentioning Jews and anti-Semitism is tantamount to making a public statement acknowledging American slavery and not mentioning black people and racism. At worst, the statement bolsters an already existing global population of Holocaust deniers and revisionist historians, as it erases unique histories of survival, bravery and resistance.

When Martin Luther King was invited to address the American Jewish Committee convention in 1958, he noted the significant similarities between Jews and African Americans, both of whom experienced hatred and prejudice.

“My people were brought to America in chains,” he said. “Your people were brought here to escape the chains that were made for them in Europe. Our unity is born of our common struggle for centuries, not only to rid ourselves of bondage, but to make impossible the oppression of one people by others.

On January 6, 2021, the day of the Capitol Uprising, history was made in Georgia. Rafael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, a black man and a Jewish man, won their Senate seats in the Bible Belt.

In the deep south, Jews could be lynched like blacks. The historic lynching of Leo Frank in Georgia in 1915 caused many Jews to “become acutely aware of the similarities and differences between themselves and black people”. The Anti-Defamation League was founded in 1913 with an understanding of the interconnected fight against all forms of hate.

However, anti-Semitism is so widespread that it is invisible and normalized. One of the reasons is that too often we de-historicize the Jewish people from their suffering. For example, I know Christians who love Jesus but hate Jews. I tell them it’s like some white Christians worshiping MLK and Obama, but they hate black men. I remind these same people that Jesus was crucified because he was Jesus, and Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and Ahmaud Arbery were killed because they were black.

Another reason for anti-Semitism is that racist Jewish tropes won’t stop until we confront them head-on. I remember when Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 presidential campaign stalled in New York. He called the Jews “Hymies” and the Big Apple “Hymietown.” During Trump’s presidential campaign, he was condemned by Jewish leaders for what appeared on his anti-Hillary poster, the Star of David, superimposed on $100 bills. Trump barked, telling his critics the star was a sheriff’s badge.

Jews become easy scapegoats in turbulent times like this.

In August 2017, at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, white supremacists threw Nazi salutes, waved swastika flags and shouted, “Jews won’t replace us!

Last July, Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was fighting for his life against a man who attacked him with a knife and a gun outside a Jewish school in Brighton, MA.

In People love dead Jews, the premise is that there is too little respect for Jewish lives happening in the present.

To stop anti-Semitism in society, we must stop it within ourselves.