What Anti-Semitism Has to Do With All of Us 

At the turn of the 20th century, 90 percent of the world’s Jews lived in Europe. Genocide, poverty, persecution and the promise of a better life elsewhere reduced that number to 10 percent at the dawn of the 21st century. A vibrant and active Jewish community in 1900 of 9 million—a people that contributed much to the arts and sciences underpinning European culture for hundreds of years—has dwindled to just a million souls, give or take.

The Institute for Jewish Policy Research compiled a recent report based on an EU survey of more than 2,700 Jewish Europeans between the ages of 16 and 34 living in 12 European Union member states. It paints a grim picture of the future as perceived by those who will live it. Fully 80 percent of those surveyed believe that anti-Semitism has increased in Europe and have seriously considered moving away from their native lands. Half have experienced an anti-Semitic incident within the past year, yet have chosen not to report the incident to authorities at the rate of 4 out of 5. In the case of violent incidents, 50 percent are not reported.

Gravestones desecrated with swastikas
Gravestones in Westhoffen in Western France desecrated with Nazi symbology in December 2019 (Photo by Hadrian/Shutterstock.com)

Incidents and indicators of anti-Semitism are evident in Jewish population centers like the UK, France and Germany. Anti-Semitism is found on social media, in the form of graffiti and even in political discourse.

80 percent of those surveyed believe that anti-Semitism has increased in Europe and have seriously considered moving away from their native lands.  

Jewish gravestones have been painted over with swastikas, parades have featured larger-than-life anti-Semitic images and, in Germany, the danger to Jews has escalated to a degree prompting one government minister to warn Jewish men not to wear the traditional kippah skullcap in public.

The question that should trouble us is not what is to become of the Jews of Europe? but what is to become of all of us?

If a section of the globe is no longer safe for a large portion of the human family, what does that say about our security? If Europe, the epicenter of the Holocaust, Exhibit A of the fruits of hate, still hasn’t learned its lesson, then where oh where is it safe for a person to think freely, to believe freely and practice his or her faith freely?

The sponsors of the report call for “tangible results on the ground,” and urge tackling anti-Semitism “at its roots” by means of education. This should absolutely be done. But the roots of anti-Semitism are the roots of any and all bigotry anywhere: that one dark and ignorant thought can breed another and another. To truly wipe out anti-Semitism and indeed all hatred “at its roots,” each of us must look to his own good heart and the good will of others.

John Evans
John Evans has written for theater and the big screen. His essays, fiction and poetry have appeared in several publications on the East and West Coasts.