Sunday, October 02, 2016

Anti-Semitism in the Time of Trump

Much has been made of the open racism towards non-whites that energizes many Donald Trump supporters, but the bigotry that defines Trump and his movement, if you will, also extends to other groups.  Muslims needless to say are hated by Trump's base.  But so too are those of Jewish descent and, of course, LGBT Americans, particularly among the Christofascists who have flocked to Trump's message of hate.  Having just attended an amazing wedding whee the bride is half Chinese and half Italian and the groom is Jewish, I could not help but think about Trump supporters who hold anyone who is not a white, conservative Christian in open contempt.  A lengthy piece in Politico Magazine looks at the reality check being experienced by Jewish members of the Millennial generation faced with Trump and all he stands for.  Here are excerpts:
Like many Jewish families in America, the Reizes household has been deliberating in recent months what Donald Trump really thinks of them. As they celebrate the Jewish New Year this weekend in their suburban Cleveland home, the topic of discussion will once again be anti-Semitism, and whether it’s surging in the United States thanks to the Trump campaign. Like others representing America’s aging Jewish Gen-X’ers and boomers, Joelle Reizes, 48, remembers experiencing some anti-Semitism as a girl—occasional sideways glances and untoward comments. But millennial Jews and their juniors are another matter. Joelle’s children—ages 19, 14, and 12—have grown up during an unprecedented era of prosperity and assimilation for Jews in America, one in which the struggles endured by an earlier generation is understood as something closer to historical lore than present fact. For younger Jews in the United States, that era has suddenly passed. The early months of 2016 brought in a strange tide of online hate speech aimed largely at Jewish journalists who had published articles critical of Trump or his campaign, with all the old ugly epithets on display. Then in July Trump’s Twitter account posted an image of a six-pointed star next to a picture of Hillary Clinton, with a pile of money in the background. Though he deleted the tweet, afterward Trump walked up to a brightly lit podium and defended the image, bellowing that the Jewish star was not a Jewish star. A dim reality descended on American Jews. Yes: Trump had broadcast the message of a neo-Nazi without apology. Then: Weeks of quiet, lasting into August. But the issue roared back into view in September, when the ex-wife of Trump’s campaign manager, Steve Bannon, said that Bannon had kept his daughters out of a school because he there were too many “whiny” Jewish brats there; the candidate’s son, Donald Trump, Jr., retweeted someone described as the neo-Nazis’ “favorite academic”; and a Trump advisor was accused of discriminating against Jewish employees (and denying the Holocaust).
[T]he Reizes family of Cleveland has been deliberating how to process such events—and the return of an age-old enmity that the Trump campaign has somehow reawakened. How soon is too soon to brush the cobwebs away from an ancient alarm bell? 
[W]hile his parents deliberate, it’s 19-year-old Zach Reizes who is most firm in his views. “What Trump has brought to the surface is, in many ways, the first blatant anti-Semitic experience for the vast majority of American millennials,” says Zach, an angular and handsome sophomore at Ohio University. 
Trump’s success—and a white nationalist subculture blooming like algae in the Internet’s unlighted depths—has turned millennial Jews into the new expositors of anti-Semitism at the dinner table: Quietly explaining Pepe the Frog, opaque Twitter memes and dyspeptic forums like Stormfront to frozen audiences of parents and grandparents. It’s thrust young Jews into long-buried questions of assimilation and political position, whiteness and privilege. And it’s heightened a divide between young and old, left and right: Progressive young Jews learning to form the words “anti-Semitism,” often for the first time—even while they take umbrage at their right-leaning scolds who, now into October, have kept up a deafening silence on the topic of Trump. This year, Reizes and his peers have watched the situation deteriorate: Headshots of journalists superimposed in concentration camps; calls to Jewish reporters in the middle of the night playing Hitler’s voice; white supremacists who appended parentheses around the names of Jews online.
To some young Jews, this election season has felt like a cold shower. “Whether you experienced no anti-Semitism growing up, or a watered-down version of it, I think most young people felt like anti-Semitism was dying,” says Debbie Rabbinovich, 19, a sophomore and Hillel member at the University of Pennsylvania. Other young activists were reconsidering what they had heard for years from an older generation. “For a long time we were told that anti-Semitism was everywhere, and we rolled our eyes at that,” says Morriah Kaplan, 24, a leader in the left-leaning activist group If Not Now. But, she acknowledged, “This feels like the closest thing to the type of anti-Semitism that my grandparents talk about experiencing in Poland.”
It’s impossible, as American Jewish families go, to gauge how widespread these dinner table conversations are—but the scope and scale was hinted at when the discord touched the family of Haman himself. When Donald Trump’s star tweet sufficiently embarrassed Jared Kushner, Trump’s Orthodox son-in-law, Kushner published an op-ed in his paper, the New York Observer, defending Trump and invoking the plight of his ancestors in the Holocaust. Immediately, Kushner’s extended family fired back, launching an internecine war of words: “Please don't invoke our grandparents in vain just so you can sleep better at night,” seethed one Kushner cousin. “It is self-serving and disgusting.”
Kushner was also blasted by a young member of his staff at the New York Observer, 23-year-old writer Dana Schwartz, who is Jewish. Her provocation was an open letter, and like Zach’s, it was scathing. “When you stand silent and smiling in the background, his Jewish son-in-law,” she wrote to her boss, “you’re giving his most hateful supporters tacit approval.”

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