Antisemitism and Political Power

Antisemitism Word Cloud Courtesy Yad Vashem

As the curator of a Holocaust museum, I've spend a lot of time learning about antisemitism. As a Jewish citizen of the United States, I've seen people with power make antisemitic comments overtly, subtly, purposely, sloppily, and everywhere in between. Sometimes those people have been chastised for their remarks. Sometimes only by Jews, but usually by others too. Sometimes proportionately, and sometimes disproportionately. Sometimes everyone chastises them. Sometimes only some people do. Sometimes the remarks are the focus. Sometimes the person is the focus. And as Kimberle Crenshaw has taught me to see, there are intersections everywhere-- with race, class, gender, age, religion, ethnicity. You name it. Every time accusations of antisemitism are leveled and discussed in public, I feel compelled to pay attention, to react. 

To quote Paul Simon, "I'm weary to the bone." Today's dismissal from the House Foreign Affairs Committee of Representative Ilhan Omar by Republicans in Congress pushed me over the edge. I'm tired of hypocrisy, and I'm tired of my people's pain being used as a political football. 

I offer anyone out there an opportunity to learn about the history of antisemitism, and how it interacts with racism and xenophobia. I ask that we condemn all of those poisons of the Anthropocene with one voice. I ask that we require rigor and truth of our politicians, and of ourselves. I ask that we forgive each other our honest mistakes and hold each other accountable for calculated use of harmful stereotypes. I ask that we hold those with more power to higher standards than those with less but that we expect everyone to try. 

I want to believe that my freedom, in a nation aspiring to freedom, includes the freedom to speak for myself and the freedom from assumptions that others speak for me. And I don't consent to being used. Ever. On this Shabbat Shirah, may we all celebrate our freedom to stand up and be counted, and to stand up for each other, and to sit down when we need to rest.