The FBI tells us that 1.7% of Americans are Jewish, but last year more than half — 54.2% — of religiously motivated hate crimes and more than a tenth of hate crimes overall were against Jews. If hate crimes against Jews in America are so high, then why don’t we hear more about them?
News sources are not reporting on antisemitism and as a result, people who are not Jewish do not seem to believe that it exists.
When Nikolas Cruz massacred 17 students, five of them Jewish, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last Wednesday, the media was abuzz with theories and information about his past. What was not discussed, however, was the antisemitic components of the shooting at a school whose population is approximately two-fifths Jewish.
Mr Cruz had a long and disturbing history of making threats and committing violent acts against Jews and other minorities, eventually leading to his expulsion.
He decorated his backpack with swastikas and led some explicitly antisemitic Instagram chats with like-minded white supremacists.
It is a very real possibility that Mr Cruz’s decision to shoot up a school that consisted of more Jews than any other ethnic group — even one he used to attend — was at least partially motivated by his deep and open hatred for Jewish people.
I found it disturbing and alarming that within 48 hours of the shooting, not one news source had reported Mr Cruz’s antisemitic sentiments.
When it initially emerged that he was a white supremacist, news sources still did not discuss the shooting in the context of Judaism.
This isn’t a recent phenomenon either. In 2011, I remember going to Hebrew school and hearing about a series of antisemitic attacks — nicknamed after the infamous Kristallnacht — that were particularly close to home.
In various New Jersey towns as close as twenty minutes away from where I lived, at least eight Jewish-owned establishments were vandalised and had bricks thrown through the windows. The local Jewish communities were shaken. I was only twelve years old and this was very scary to me. My dad was Jewish and he owned a small business. What was stopping them from targeting us next? But when I mentioned the incident to my non-Jewish friends at school, none of them had heard about the attacks. When I looked it up online, there was no discussion of these antisemitic attacks beyond the Jewish press — not even in local newspapers.
News outlets actively ignored the rampant antisemitism displayed more recently at last summer’s Charlottesville march. Neo-Nazis chanted “Jews will not replace us!” over and over again throughout the demonstration as one of their main mantras.
Yet, the few news articles that made more than a brief reference to that chat were all in Jewish outlets.
The vast majority condemned the neo-Nazi march, but writers discussed people of colour as the only targets of the march and did not mention Jews once.
One such example was the popular writer and anthropology professor Rosemary Joyce. In a lengthy piece about the march, she paraphrased the Nazi chant to “we will not be replaced” and did not mention Jews once.
This led me to a disheartening realisation: if the Charlottesville march had only targeted Jews, would it have received even a fraction of the backlash? Would people have cared at all?
Natalie Lifson is a playwright, producer, lyricist, and screenwriter originally from New Jersey