Stereotypes, prejudice and hatred toward Jews have persisted and evolved for millennia. In the nineteenth century, this hatred became known as antisemitism, and it describes expressions and acts of hate towards, and a range of destructive conspiracy theories about, Jews in the contemporary world.
In recent years, reported incidents of antisemitism have increased. In May of 2018, the Anti-Defamation League released findings that 4.2 million antisemitic tweets were shared or re-shared on Twitter in a 12-month period. In its most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the ADL logged 2,024 incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assaults in 2020, the third highest year on record since the ADL first began tracking such incidents in 1979. It is important to consider that these numbers do not take into account the antisemitic incidents that are never reported.
When antisemitism is ignored in a community, other forms of discrimination are often tolerated as well. A Human Rights First report on antisemitism in France notes, “Left unchecked, antisemitism leads to the persecution of other minorities, and to an overall increase in repression and intolerance. An increase in antisemitism is a harbinger of societal breakdown.”
Antisemitic actions and expressions are a sign that not just Jews, but also members of any minority group, might experience exclusion, unfair treatment, emotional abuse, or physical and verbal assaults. Therefore, as you engage in this lesson with students, it is important to consider the question: Why is confronting antisemitism everyone’s responsibility?