Antisemitism on the rise in America; OHS students study the Holocaust

January 27, 2023


Andres Contreras

Mr. Churchill’s Holocaust class seen working on their final project.

In America, there has been a rise in antisemitism. Antisemitism is defined as any prejudiced verbal or physical act against Jewish people. Today’s teens, whether on social media or in person, have been making more and more comments, and what they consider “jokes” against Jewish people. In effect, it negatively impacts today’s society by taking an important horrifying historical event, the Holocaust, and playing it off as no big deal. This, to the Jewish community, makes it seem like their lives and their story are being invalidated. When antisemitism occurs, society has seen to get more and more unbothered by it and does not see the true severity of the issue.

In the article Anti-antisemitism? A Battle Rages Over the Jewish Hyphen, by Allison Kaplan Sommer, Prof. Deborah Lipstadt says, “Why do I spell antisemitism without a hyphen?” she asked. “Because anti-Semitism is not hatred of Semitism or Semites – people who speak Semitic languages. Antisemitism is Jew hatred.” 

Prof. Deborah Lipsatdt fought for the removal of the hyphen between the words “Anti” and “Semitism”, along with the removal of the uppercase S in Semitism. She succeeded in making antisemitism its word in journalistic writing; however, she did not succeed in doing so for dictionaries. 

Recent antisemitic events happening in the United States

Neo-Nazi groups and antisemitic groups are more common than people believe. On Nov. 21, 2022, the neighboring state of Iowa had a group of antisemitic believers spread hate messages along the interstate of Iowa. Several bystanders driving by contacted 911 to see what was going on, later multiple police officers showed up at the scene asking what their intentions were. The Neo-Nazi group argued that although they were spreading hate speech against the Jewish community, it was perfectly fine that they did so because of their first amendment rights.

In the article Neo-Nazi group using first amendment protections to spread hate messages in Eastern Iowa, Ethan Stein said, “The video shows another woman confronting officers and then trying to tear down signs, which say, “Money runs the world and Jews own the banks. The truth is anti-Semitic” and, “The Holocaust didn’t happen, but it should have.” 

Paraphrased from the article, a woman driving down the freeway approached the police officers asking them to take the signs down because it was spreading hate speech. According to the article, the officers told the two masked men they would be cited because of unlawfully displaying a sign. The men later denied any ownership of the signs which led to them being removed, because they were declared as abandoned property. The group believed they had the freedom of speech to express their opinions. This means the two masked men had the right to express their beliefs against the Jewish community, but they did not have the right to hang up the signs so they did get removed. 

In another scenario, The New York Times newspaper used a swastika-shaped crossword puzzle for their newspaper on the first night of Hanukkah. Ryan McCarty is the creator of this crossword puzzle, McCarty has previously made 22 puzzles for The New York Times. In an article by the New York Post it says, “He wrote that he’d originally tried to make it work in a 15×15 grid but then decided to expand the grid out to a Sunday-size puzzle with a fun whirlpool shape.” 

People are very upset over this because of how similar the “whirlpool shape” looks to a swastika, which is a Nazi hate symbol. Former president’s son Donald Trump Jr. said, in a Twitter tweet, “Disgusting! Only the New York Times would get Chanukah going with this crossword puzzle. Imagine what they would do to someone who did this and was not ideologically aligned with them? I’ll give them the same benefit of the doubt they would give those people … EXACTLY ZERO.”

People were furious over this, saying that this incident should have been caught by the various editors. Later in the article, it says, “Folks are making hay over today’s @nytimes crossword layout,” criticized another aghast user. “If the swastika is unintentional, you’d think an editor along the way would have caught it. And on the first day of Hanukkah, no less.” The New York Times has to approve everything that gets posted. Along with that, people were not happy with the little to no punishment McCarty received; they felt more should have happened regarding his incident. 

Antisemitism is also showcased by popular athletes, celebrities, singers and fashion designers

Various celebrities and athletes have formed their opinion on how they feel about the Holocaust and Jewish people in America. One being Kyrie Irving, a famous NBA star who is sponsored by Nike and plays on the Brooklyn Nets team. Irving linked an anti-semitic documentary on his twitter account which claimed the Holocaust was not real and never occurred. He has since stood by his decision and beliefs which support his anti-semitic opinion. Irving has been given multiple chances to apologize and retract his statements but he continues to stand by it. In an article by Brian Mahoney for NBA’s Kyrie Irving suspended for antisemitic social media post, apologizes it says, “We were dismayed today, when given an opportunity in a media session, that Kyrie refused to unequivocally say he has no antisemitic beliefs nor acknowledge specific hateful material in the film. This was not the first time he had the opportunity — but failed — to clarify.” 

Since the incident Irving’s reputation has lowered a great amount and he has lost multiple deals and possibly his association with the Brooklyn Nets. In an article posted by The New York Times it says, ‘“Kyrie Irving is no longer a Nike athlete,” Nike said in a statement.” Not only is Nike dropping Irving as an athlete, they are also ending the production of his basketball shoe line, which began in 2014, starting Oct. 2023. Irvings shoe, Kyrie 8, which has been an ongoing project for some time now, will not be getting released by Nike. 

Celebrity singer and fashion designer Kanye West has very publicly said he supports and praises Adolf Hitler and Nazis. Kanye posted a swastika inside a Star of David on his public Twitter account and has done numerous other acts to showcase his support to the beliefs of Hitler. Some specialists say that the random outburst of tweets and comments about Hitler and his hate against the Jewish community, show a mental health episode. Kanye himself has come out and said that he struggles with bipolar disorder.

His embrace of anti-Black, antisemitic and white supremacist language comes at the expense of other people’s safety, their humanity and their dignity.

— J. Wortham

People on the internet have come out and say that him having bipolar disorder does not excuse his actions nor his offensive comments. Others have excused Kanye’s actions and say it’s a side effect of his disorder. In an article by The New York Times J. Wortham said, “His embrace of anti-Black, antisemitic and white supremacist language comes at the expense of other people’s safety, their humanity and their dignity.”

Fans now wonder if they should continue to support this rapper despite his past actions, or if they should excuse the actions and blame it on his disorder. After the tweets, Kanye’s twitter account ended up being suspended indefinitely. This has also impacted online teens in today’s society who have been believed to think that making anti-Jewish jokes about the Holocaust are okay and no repercussions will occur. 

In today’s society there are people who believe that the Holocaust was a hoax

Today in society, the recurring hate crimes against the Jewish community and the hate speech of the Holocaust have started to be normalized. While historians prove that the Holocaust was a traumatizing event that happened in history, those who joke about it disrespect the people and the families that lived through and got affected by this terrorizing world changing event.

In the article, ‘Silence is complicity’: Biden calls out antisemitism amid Kanye West’s Hitler comments written by Kelly Hooper it says, “I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure.” The article shows how President Biden reassures society that the Holocaust was a real life event that occurred in our times. 

In the same article, President Biden said in a tweet,” Events like the Holocaust happened, they occurred and are backed up by historic facts. There’s no use in denying these proven events. 

Although these events were from 1933 – 1945, the memory of it still remains in today’s society. While the Holocaust might have taken a place that people feel was a while ago, the lasting effects it has had on society remain an issue. Holocaust survivors are still alive today and walk this earth along with the rest of society. In the article, ‘I stayed alive to tell’ – Auschwitz’s dwindling survivors recount horrors of Nazi death camp by Maayan Lubell, Auschwitz survivor Vera Grossman Kriegel says, “Why did I stay alive? It was for a reason. Did I stay alive to keep silent? No – to tell.” Grossman Kriegel wanted her survival to have meant something, she wanted to tell her story of the events that happened to her. Grossman Kriegel being alive impacts how society should see the Holocaust, how society should notice that there are survivors living among the people who lived through this world changing events; how the rise in antisemitism is alarming and how survivors deserve the right to have their story told and never be forgotten. Statistics prove that America is not much further from where we were in the 1930’s, regarding its issues with antisemitism. 

Students at Owatonna High School have the opportunity to learn about events occurring with the Holocaust

Owatonna High School provides a Holocaust class taught by Mr. Patrick Churchill. Mr.Churchill is a history teacher at the high school. Throughout the class, students are taught a variety of events that tie together with the Holocaust such as, what the Jewish community went through and what their journeys were while they got sent to the concentration camps in the ghettos. Students also have the opportunity to watch real life documentaries and movies about what people’s lives were like, they also get to read a book published by a survivor of the Holocaust.

It goes further than antisemitism in my class, I try to incorporate all different sorts of people and how they are treated.

— Patrick Churchill

In the class students learn about the sufferment the Jewish people at concentration camps lived through. Students also learn about the story behind what truly happened during the Holocaust and who was involved in this historic event. Senior Kinzie Carlson’s grandmother was born during the time period that the Holocaust occurred and knew people who lived through the trauma. 

Mr.Churchill said, “It goes further than antisemitism in my class, I try to incorporate all different sorts of people and how they are treated. In the last two weeks of the class we work on an anti discrimination project of different cultures and races here in the United States. I hope students pick up on some of the similarities of things going on, and things being said. They can see how it connects with what happens in the 1930’s in Germany. If they see the similarities between the two they can have a better understanding of trying to stop it, which did not happen in Germany.”

Carlson said, “I absolutely do not think we should continue to give celebrities who make anti-semitic jokes a platform. The Kanye situation is ridiculous. I understand he’s going through mental health issues; but that is no excuse to make the comments he did.”

Mr.Churchill has taught the Holocaust class for two years at OHS and 12 years at the previous high school he taught for. He teaches it because he believes it’s important for people to know what happened during that time.

Mr.Churchill said, “ I feel there has been an underbelly that has risen up and has come more out in the open, and I think that’s what we are seeing now. More people are being upfront about it, it’s always been there under the surface but lately it has risen a lot more.”

Throughout Mr.Churchill’s class students get to see some gruesome content about the Holocaust and events surrounding that subject. 

Mr.Churchill said, “ I tell the kids that in this class you will see some pretty horrible, hard to watch stuff. That they’re gonna see stuff that makes their stomach turn, and hopefully this has an impact on how they look and treat other people.” Students in Mr.Churchill’s class perspective has greatly changed since taking the Holocaust class. 

Senior Kinzie Carlson said, “After taking this class it changed my perspective on how serious and gruesome it was.” 

Since learning about the holocaust it made me more emotional about the events that happened. I also learned about people’s experiences and what happened to them.

— Emmie Krause

Carlson and Senior Emmie Krause were both two students taking Churchill’s Holocaust class. Krause said, “Since learning about the Holocaust it made me more emotional about the events that happened. I also learned about people’s experiences and what happened to them. I believe this class should continue to be taught because the events that happened occurred to innocent people, and no one deserves to go through that.”

Learning about the severity of the events that happened to the Jewish community during the Holocaust class is just one of the lessons that gets taught. Antisemitism is a rising issue in America, students get taught about the horrifying events that happened to the Jewish community at the time. Although the events happened decades ago the Jewish community is still affected by the events today.

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