Anti-Semitism at 40 in Ohio; Jewish people made COVID scapegoats


When Justin Shaw learned that Ohio had experienced the most anti-Semitic incidents last year in more than 40 years, he was not surprised.

The director of relations with the Jewish community at the non-profit organization in the region Jewish Columbus noted that incidents have been on the rise for a few years and that with COVID-19 it has become easier for people to harass Jews online.

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“There was more propaganda, more rhetoric,” said Shaw, whose organization focuses on philanthropy and supporting community programs. “Zoom bombing has been more of a problem, and to be honest I think some of it is underreported.”

There were probably more incidents, he said, than there even were. The report published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) last week, according to which 43 were disclosed in 2020.

“I would definitely encourage people to report,” Shaw said. “The more we have on file, I think the more attention this issue gets. It strengthens the file.”

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In 2019, 25 incidents were reported, marking a 72% increase in anti-Semitic events in 2020, according to the ADL. The 43 cases of anti-Semitism in 2020 represent a 52% increase over the state average of 28 incidents per year, according to the report.

The ADL categorizes anti-Semitic events as those with conditions compatible with anti-Jewish ideals on the part of the perpetrator or if “a reasonable person could plausibly conclude that he was a victim because of his Jewish identity.”

James Pasch, regional director of the Cleveland office of the Anti-Defamation League, said there was not a single factor behind the rise. This can be attributed to several reasons, but the ongoing pandemic is probably one of them.

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“There is no doubt that the rise of the coronavirus has led us to fight almost two viruses at the same time,” he said. “The physical virus, then the hate virus that coincided with that.”

The Jewish people and other minorities have been accused of societal evils for years, Pasch said.

“With minorities being blamed or seen as scapegoats for the spread of the virus, this is something that has happened in world history before (other) major viruses and pandemics,” he said. he declares. “It’s no surprise that this has happened here again.”

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The report shows that the incidents consisted of 30 incidents of harassment, 12 acts of vandalism and one assault in Ohio.

In November, a Jewish couple in Columbus were verbally harassed while celebrating the presidential election, and a swastika and the words “I love the Nazis” were found carved in a car parked near the University of Washington. Ohio state in July, the report says.

Prior to the resignation in June of the former director of the Ohio Department of Health, Dr Amy Acton, who is Jewish, her home in Bexley was the target of anti-Semitic protests. During an April 2020 protest outside the Statehouse, a protester showed up with an anti-Semitic sign.

About 63% of incidents in Ohio occurred in northeast Ohio, the report said, with 23%, or 10 incidents, occurring in central Ohio.

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The increase in the number of incidents of anti-Semitism in Ohio is in line with national trends, according to the ADL.

In Ohio, Jewish institutions were targeted 167% more than they were in 2019, according to the report, with just three incidents at institutions such as synagogues that year and eight in 2020.

And with the pandemic has come a new form of harassment known as ‘zoom bombing’ – when people deliberately disrupt meetings or religious services with graphic or hate images or messages. Shaw said the local community saw Zoom bombings during online church services.

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“It is alarming that there is so much hate in the world and hate in our own backyard, and all we can do is try and put some safety measures in place and try. to protect us, “he said.

JewishColumbus is funding efforts to secure Jewish institutions locally, and Shaw has advised Jewish leaders in the region on ways to secure their Zoom meetings while remaining open and welcoming to those who are genuinely interested in Judaism.

Despite the increase in hatred, Shaw said Jews are resilient and will not let fear stop them.

He and Pasch said education was needed to prevent more anti-Semitism in the future. Shaw said people can have conversations with people they know and be an “active agent of change.”

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“It’s not just education in the classroom; it’s also educating the people we know best,” Pasch said.

Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann, Executive Director of the Chabad Lori Schottenstein Center in New Albany, believes that people who commit acts of anti-Semitism may not know anything about the Jewish people.

“I think you have to educate people, and you have to reach out with love,” he said. “If you educate, if you uplift, if you inhale, then that is the antidote.”

Pasch is still hoping things can improve.

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“It’s easy to look at the numbers and be pessimistic and confused – and we should be confused – but I would say that I have never been so optimistic about the ability of our society to stop this trend,” he said. -he declares.

There are alliances and partnerships that occur every day between individuals and organizations, including between groups led by Jews, Asians and blacks who fight hate together, Pasch said.

“I am convinced that our children and our grandchildren will live in a more tolerant Ohio and a more tolerant America than the one we live in today simply because of the work that is being done on the ground,” he said. he declares.

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Yet, Pasch said, anti-Semitism is a warning and a reason to be vigilant.

“Anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred. It really is a canary in the coal mine,” he said. “But it’s important to note that what starts with anti-Semitism spreads to other forms of hatred.

“We have seen a rise in hatred against Asian Americans and the Pacific Islands. We have seen the open sore of racism against the black community and the continuation of despicable immigration conspiracy theories. And with all of this, the evidence points to 2021 as the year we need to be extremely vigilant in the face of hate and all its forms. “

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