Guest Opinion: A hard year for American Jews


As 2017 comes to a close, a UI Jewish student reflects on a troubling year of anti-Semitism but remains hopeful.

Oy vey. Here we are again. Students schlep their notes and books across campus, bracing for finals and hoping the New Year comes soon. After all, 2018 is an opportunity to start anew. To do away with that vice, to accomplish that ever-elusive goal, to make your presence make a difference, to help stamp out Nazism. However, did we not say this a year ago?

A year ago, young American Jews were seeing more blatant forms of anti-Semitism than ever before. Sure, we were used to the run-of-the-mill stuff. Being the Christmas Grinch in the War on Christmas, having “weird” holidays, being grossly stereotyped on television, undergoing uncomfortable questions, and being made to feel like an outsider in a culture that values conformity. However, something changed for us last year. We realized we aren’t American enough for some people.

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2016 was the first time I saw Nazism firsthand. 2016 was the first time a future president retweeted an image of a Jewish star superimposed over money with the tagline “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever” that originated from a neo-Nazi account. 2016 was the first time we saw a national wave of schools (including this one) being targets for recruitment by neo-Nazis. 2016 was when we realized that we will never be American enough for some people. Even though it never left the room, it took a seat at the table. In 2016, non-Jews began asking if anti-Semitism was a problem.

2017 answered that. It was answered when our cemeteries were being attacked. It was answered when our community centers got bomb threats. It was answered when our president responded to a reporter who asked what the government wants to do to address anti-Semitism by saying, “I am the least anti-Semitic person” and telling him to sit down and be quiet. It answered our question when at Chicago Gay Pride (Dyke March), Jews were kicked out for walking with a Star of David because of the Israeli conflict. It was answered when George Soros somehow became evil incarnate for Internet trolls. It was answered when neo-Nazis caused mayhem in Charlottesville and chanted Nazi slogans. It was answered when a robocall purporting to be “Bernie Bernstein” tried to persuade people The Washington Postw was part of some Elders of Zion-level conspiracy to further damage the reputation of accused pedophile Roy Moore.

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Even now, Jewish Americans are expecting backlash from the president’s unilateral decision about the U.S. Embassy in Israel — which most of us disagree with, by the way. However, even if we aren’t blamed for the hopelessness of The Conflict, the decision still has direct consequences on us. The relationship between Jewish Americans and Israelis Jews has become strained over the years. 2017 exacerbated those tensions, and this decision will only make it worse.

You could say it has been a shana ka’she (hard year) for Jewish Americans. There’s no denying that between our collective cowardice regarding racism and Nazism and the increasing traction of nationalism, alarm bells are ringing in Jewish communities. Yet we are a resilient people who can survive anything. Even though things are messed up now, they won’t always be. My hope is not lost, for I still have faith — in America. Happy Hanukkah.

  Harrison Freund, Iowa City resident

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