How Cobb County Can Help Confront Anti-Semitism

A red Star of David on a gold background

By John A. Tures, Professor of Political Science, LaGrange College

Atlanta News First reported that antisemitic flyers were placed throughout Cobb County. Is this an isolated incident, or part of a disturbing trend? And what can we do to repel this insidious ideology targeting Jewish people?

Just as President Joe Biden announced the first national plan to combat antisemitism, those who hate Jewish people are clearly pushing back against this policy, and hope to pick up some recruits in Cobb County in the process.

According to Brittany Ford with Atlanta New First, “Leaders here at Congregation of Etz Chaim in Marietta are calling on the community to join their fight. ‘It’s been an ongoing issue for a long time and never seems to go away it is certainly on the rise throughout the country. It needs to stop hatred of anything kind needs to stop. It’s very disconcerting and very upsetting,’ said Mary Gilbert, Executive Director at the synagogue.”

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Sadly, it’s not an isolated incident, as data from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) shows. NPR reported “These record-breaking numbers present as part of a consistent, five-year upswing in the number of antisemitic incidents, unprecedented in the ADL’s three plus decades of data collection. The organization says it’s more commonly tracked isolated spikes in a given year, as seen in 1994 and 1981.”

And then, as CNN reported, ADL data shows 2022 had the highest number of antisemitic attacks since the 1970s. Despite this, non-Jewish people seem unaware of these cases of assault, vandalism, and other hate crimes being on the rise. “[T]he AJC survey found that while both Jewish Americans and the general public see antisemitism as a problem, less than half of the general population think antisemitism has increased at least to some extent in the past five years, compared to about four in five Jewish Americans. ‘While the American Jewish community is very aware of rising anti-Jewish sentiment, the general American public is not,’ said Robert Williams, a historian and executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education at the University of Southern California,” CNN cited. Jews make up 2.4% of the population, but more than 60 percent of all religious-targeted attacks, according to the White House. Knowledge of the problem is a big first step.

Knowing why people targeting those of the Jewish faith is the next step. NPR attributes such hate to conspiracy theories. When you have a deadly worldwide pandemic, followed by a painful economic recession, people look for someone to blame. And Jewish people are a historic target, offering an easy scapegoat for those angry and upset about modern politics, which can even border on the ridiculous, like Jewish Space Lasers starting California wildfires.

We also know that certain politicians are more likely to associate with known antisemites, behavior that wouldn’t be tolerated years ago by voters. But such public events, torch marches, and hate rhetoric has been excused by those, eager to see their party win, or who are afraid to confront members of their own party, for fear of being the next target of the mob.

It is comforting to see the killer from the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh found guilty for his hate crimes, and other high-profile attackers punished. But such rulings alone won’t win the war against antisemitism. If history offers any guidance, it’s our fight too, no matter our belief system. Wouldn’t it be great if Cobb County residents received lots of flyers declaring support for the Jewish people, and an unmistakable condemnation of antisemitism? It would improve upon the silence heard around the world in the 1930s and early 1940s.

John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia. His views are his own. He can be reached at jtures@lagrange.edu. His Twitter account is JohnTures2.

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