I didn’t recognize her first behind the desk from my helpdesk job as she waved at me. It took me a second to realize why. My devout Muslim friend had taken off her hijab, she was too afraid to wear it in an atmosphere where respect and tolerance for other religions were quickly dwindling. Called terrorists, physically assaulted all because she chose to wore a symbol of her own religion. In countries such as Netherlands and Denmark, measures have been enacted to ban any covering that masks the face and require new immigrants to attend state schools focused solely as heavily Muslim neighborhoods.
In a town where I openly wore my Star of David out of defiance, I understood her fears well. In 2005, St. Cloud State University’s dorms were marked by swastikas. When I tell people where I am from, people are surprised any Jews live there because of the unspoken the notoriety of the anti-Semitism. While the university has a Jewish department, one would be hard-pressed to find a Jew.
With this background, I question those who challenge me when I dare to openly wear my Star of David, calling upon comparison to 1930s Germany. We are not living in times where Jews have quotas banned from serving in the public, nor do we have laws restricting where we can work, where we can live nor our professionals expelled from their jobs. In a country where African Americans are routinely shot up, immigrants are being shipped to countries for daring to apply for asylum, our persecution isn’t unique to us.
Anti-Semitism rises when society starts to fracture and the U.S. is divisive in a time where children are expected to make less than their parents, the first time in the last two generations and we have been at war more than two-thirds of our lives. We have a fractured society and people are tired of the system, Trump was elected as a protest to all the lies we have become accustomed to hearing.
Yet, his brand embodies and facilitates hatred, he is a businessman that knows people and he knows people are frustrated and looking for somewhere to blame. People are afraid of the unknown and Jews are no strange to this, yet, why do we turn a blind eye to when he calls us double loyal? When he puts Israel in danger by moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem when most Israelis didn’t support this move? They know Jerusalem is their capital, they don’t need a plaque on an embassy to prove that.
We cannot run from anti-Semitism to Israel. We cannot change the system if all of us leave and walk away. This isn’t 1930s Germany, and if all of us leave, who will stay to face the coming tide?
What is the point of never again if it only applies to Jews? Anti-Semitism is a brand of hatred that is not uniquely ours to claim, we’re not the only ones dying in the streets. It is not only our blood that is being spilled. We cannot fight this battle by only acknowledging our struggles while tearing down Muslims.
How can we support a registry of Muslims when the Nazis did the same thing to us? How can we justify calling for support for our own hatred while turning our backs on the African-Americans dying in the streets?
My family is not just Jews. I have Muslim and African-American nieces. They are not terrorists, Muslims aren’t the only ones who wear hair coverings, so do our Orthodox Jews. We are not the only ones being targeted for our faith. If we are going to combat anti-Semitism, we have to unite others, we cannot tear down others. We must combat our own biases within our community.
I will not run because who will stand up for the others dying and if they come after us, who is next? This isn’t our fight alone. We have to stand up for everyone, only when hatred is defeated will anti-Semitism be defeated.
We must stand together, not against.