We are all human beings living on the same planet, but we all have things that make us different from one another. Some people believe in a religion. Some have a skin color different than our own. All of these differences make our world a more interesting place, but some people are afraid of these differences. The Jews are a group of people who have suffered because of this fear.
The feeling of fear or anger against Jewish people is called anti-Semitism. “Anti” means “against”. “Semitism” comes from the word “Semite”, which refers to people from the Middle East, including Jews and Arabs. Although Semite can refer to many different people, anti-Semitism usually means discrimination against Jews. In 1879, Wilhelm Marr from Germany first used this term. This was before World Wars I and II, when anti-Jewish campaigns were beginning to spread throughout central Europe.
In World War II, the Nazi Party invaded much of Europe. Their goal was to promote German pride and anti-Semitism. This led to the worst anti-Semitic crime in history—the Holocaust. About six million Jewish people were killed. Even though the Nazis were defeated about 80 years ago, anti-Semitic crimes continue today. In the US, religion-based hate crimes have increased. In 2017, out of more than 7,100 hate crimes reported in America, 1,986 of those targeted Jews.
On the morning of October 27th, 2018, Jews attending religious services at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, USA were shot. Eleven people were killed and seven were hurt. Robert Gregory Bowers, age 46, was arrested for the crime. He had been posting anti-Semitic comments on the social media site Gab. Just before the shooting, he posted about his fears of immigrants. This violent hate crime calls attention to a growing problem in America: the fear of people from other countries.
Violence is easy to see, but anti-Semitism can happen in quieter ways as well. Just after the Pittsburgh shooting, a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York City was spray-painted with hate speech. That same day, two swastikas were spray-painted in another part of the city. Elizabeth Midlarsky, age 77, is a Jewish professor at Columbia University in New York. Since 2007, she has been a target of anti-Semitism. Recently, the two swastikas and a hate word were spray-painted inside her office.
Jewish students are targets of anti-Semitism as well. In May 2018, a group of American lawmakers suggested a new law. It would change the definition of anti-Semitism in order to protect students on campus. However, not everyone likes the idea. Those who are against it say this kind of law would violate the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to freedom of speech.