The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter to the Editor: Reckoning with Pittsburgh

Although our elected officials expressed shock that such an attack could happen, the terror carried out in Pittsburgh last weekend should not have come as a surprise to anyone. The scourge of antisemitism has existed in the United States since the country’s inception, but as the horrors of the Holocaust reached our American conscience, and an association with antisemitism became an association with Nazism, its legacy was conveniently erased from our national memory. America’s dominant culture conveniently removed the more overtly antisemitic elements from its outward identity without experiencing any sort of reckoning.

Yet American antisemitism persists, and on the morning of Saturday, Oct. 27 during Shabbat morning services, 11 Jews were murdered because of it. In representing the Jewish community at Grinnell College, we see it as our obligation to name and condemn this attack for what it is: an antisemitic act of terror inspired by white supremacy.

Denial of antisemitism’s existence allows it to thrive, so recognizing it is key to combating it. Antisemitism is unique in that it is essentially based on an abundance of conspiracy theories. Unlike other forms of hatred, antisemitism functions cyclically, characterized by periods of lull followed by periods of intense violence, and doesn’t rely on clear, constructed binaries. America and the world at large are experiencing a surge of antisemitism, with the Anti-Defamation League reporting a 35 percent increase in the United States of instances of antisemitic hate crimes in 2016, and a 57 percent increase in 2017. The Pittsburgh shooting is no isolated incident. It is the product of a sea of radical hatred, newly emboldened by an apparently sympathetic Oval Office.

Now that antisemitic dog-whistles have entered the political mainstream (our president has taken to tacitly defending the protesters in Charlottesville who chanted, “Jews will not replace us,” and recently failed to immediately condemn the antisemitic motivation of a shooter who yelled “All Jews must die”), allyship is as important as ever. Think about how you interact with antisemitism, and how it manifests in your own life. We ask that you recognize antisemitism as endemic to our culture and understand that it infects us in the same way that racism, sexism, homophobia and all other societally learned hatreds do. We urge you to do anything in your power to ensure that antisemitism is recognized as a legitimate threat in the spaces you create in and outside of Grinnell, and to combat it whenever possible.

We understand that we are by no means alone in the fear and hatred we are experiencing, and we stand in solidarity with all other marginalized groups affected by the unabashed white supremacy entering the mainstream. We are stronger fighting it together than we are alone.

Jewish students of Grinnell, do not allow moments like this to cause you to force your Jewish identity into obscurity. Support each other. Love each other. Speak up for others and speak up for yourself. Your voice matters now as much as ever.

You can contact Chalutzim at [chalutz]. Get on our mailing list and join us for Shabbat table.

— The Chalutzim Board

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