Social media fuels antisemitism in MCPS

On Nov. 14, the Trolley Trail in Bethesda was vandalized with graffiti, depicting people being hung with the words , NO MERCY FOR jEWS. This is one of many antisemitic acts that have happened in Montgomery County over the last couple of months.

Photo Courtesy of Montgomery Community Media

On Nov. 14, the Trolley Trail in Bethesda was vandalized with graffiti, depicting people being hung with the words , “NO MERCY FOR jEWS.” This is one of many antisemitic acts that have happened in Montgomery County over the last couple of months.

Montgomery County has seen a significant rise in antisemitic acts this year. It is especially alarming that many of these incidents have taken place in public schools. This is a serious issue that shouldn’t go unnoticed by our community. While the county has taken several measures to address antisemitism, it has yet to grapple with what is arguably at the root of the problem, social media. Towards the end of October, rapper Kanye West made several antisemitic statements in interviews and through Twitter that have been magnified by white supremacist groups and others. West expressed support for Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, as well as insinuated violence toward Jews. At the beginning of October, he made a comment on Twitter that read, “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” Death con means to declare war on or to attack.

Since then numerous antisemitic incidents have happened all over Montgomery County. On Nov. 14, parts of Bethesda were vandalized with swastikas and drawings of people being hung with the words, “NO MERCY FOR jEWS.”

On Dec. 16, Walt Whitman High School’s entrance sign was vandalized with the words, “Jews Not Welcome.” Shortly after this incident, it was reported that students on Walt Whitman’s debate team joked about luring Jewish students with challah to “burn them at the stake” while playing West’s music.

Throughout January, swastikas have been drawn on the desks at Magruder High School, Tilden Middle School, Silver Creek Middle School, Gaithersburg High School and Bethesda Chevy Chase High School.

On Jan. 26, a Jewish man, wearing a star of David, was assaulted by five men at a Giant grocery store in Gaithersburg. The Jewish man who was attacked heard one of the five men say, “Yeah, do it for Kanye.”

And these are only a few of the antisemitic incidents that have happened over the past couple of months.

It seems very likely that these antisemitic acts were influenced by West. All of these acts happened close within each other and took place shortly after West made his antisemitic remarks on Twitter encouraging violence against Jews.

In fact, the Anti-Defamation League issued a report on Feb. 12 that linked the rise of antisemitic acts to West’s remarks on Twitter. And indeed, white supremacist groups and others have been rallying behind West in a movement called “Ye is right.”

Social media has a strong influence on people, especially on school-aged kids. It’s scary when people in the pop culture business use social media to spread hate. It happened to be West this time, but the next time it may be another social media influencer with an even larger audience.

MCPS has recently partnered with the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) to counter this rise in antisemitism. The county has also invested 036;800,000 in order to improve security measures in schools, as well as preventing hate crimes from occurring again. While this response is very effective, more needs to be done in order to reach MCPS students.

It is important that MCPS addresses social media’s influence on students. MCPS should also partner with the Holocaust museum to educate students about antisemitism.

When it comes to antisemitism, we all still have something we can learn from our first President. In 1770, George Washington wrote a letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Rhode Island. In his letter, he said that, in America, it “is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights.” He stressed that no matter our background we are all equal citizens, and that there is no room for “bigotry” in the United States.

He wrote further, “May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Sadly, this is not the case today. With the rise of antisemitic incidents, Jews in the U.S. are treated as if they aren’t even Americans. Many Jews feel afraid because of the recent antisemitic acts in our county. All Americans have the right to feel safe in our country, and that includes Jewish Americans.