- Words from a 3G Survivor – Robyn Weber
My grandfather, the great-grandfather of my two kids, is a Holocaust Survivor. Ben Lesser has made it his life’s mission to educate people – especially our youth – about the massacre of 6 million+ Jews during World War II – so that it will never happen again. Sometimes it feels like we are making progress. For example, when my grandfather is asked to tell his story in front of thousands of people. Or when we get amazing feedback on ZHC, his virtual Holocaust education program. Then there are days I can’t help but wonder if it’s all for naught.
According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), antisemitic incidents – including assault, harassment and vandalism – reached an all-time high in the United States last year. It’s the highest number of reports on record since the ADL began tracking them in 1979. More than seven incidents are reported each day.
On October 8th, Ye – the rapper, record producer, and fashion designer formerly known as Kanye West – declared on Twitter that he’s going “death con 3 on Jewish people.” He also posted to his 30 million followers on Twitter, and 18.5 million followers on Instagram about age-old Jewish conspiracy theories. In response, many celebrities, including his ex-wife Kim Kardashian and her family, have spoken out in support of the Jewish community. There was a viral petition demanding that Adidas and the Gap drop Ye’s sneaker and clothing lines. Both companies stepped up to do just that. Even Peleton has now removed Ye’s music from its rotation.
But, it doesn’t end there. Ye’s antisemitic rants woke up Neo Nazi activists. Extremist groups including The Nation of Islam have defended and embraced Ye’s comments. In Los Angeles, there were banners draped across the 405 freeway overpass, supporting Ye’s statements and promoting antisemitic propaganda and websites. Then last week, in several affluent LA neighborhoods, antisemitic flyers were stuffed in plastic bags and dropped on front lawns. There were even reports of swastikas being etched into parked cars. The ADL’s Los Angeles office said that the number of hate incidents in the city is expected to exceed last year’s record high.
Who knows when or if this latest surge of hate will die down. Hate crimes against Jewish people have been happening since long before most of us were born. Perhaps out of self-preservation, many of us prefer to avoid the intense fear, anger, and stress of thinking about the vitriol that surrounds us on a daily basis. But when those cases make worldwide headlines, or when they happen in our own backyard – that’s when we have no choice but to react. Whether that’s just being more aware, talking to our friends, family, and kids, posting on social media, protesting, or joining a movement.
This time feels different. Maybe it’s because we just got out of a two-year pandemic lockdown. Maybe it’s because of the state of our conflicted nation.
Silence is complicity. But lately I find myself – Quiet. All that is happening. It’s so hard to comprehend. I am also crushed by the weight of questions like – Do we try to shield this pain from our younger kids? How do we tell them that everything is going to be OK when we don’t know that it ever will be?
Why do we need to constantly justify, teach, and reteach what happened 75 years ago? Slaughtered. My family, my flesh and blood. Other families, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, babies…murdered. All because of hate. It’s so disappointing. I was under the impression that we have evolved, not revolved. So, what do we do with all of our pent-up emotions from this latest round of antisemitism?
Problem is – this is bigger than Ye. He is just a small piece of a very large (political) problem. In these trying times, I can only lean on what I know, what my grandfather has taught me. I find comfort in his unwavering message – knowing he has been through worse – and can be a beacon to guide us all.
My 94-year-old grandfather doesn’t know who Ye is, but what Ye said is not anything that my grandfather hasn’t heard many times before. It’s vile language that has been and will continue to be levied against the Jewish people. Here’s how my grandfather puts in all in perspective:
“Because of the internet, antisemitism is growing like wild fire. We have to stop that.
You don’t teach younger generation about antisemitism they should automatically know that it’s wrong. Antisemitism is the beginning of another Holocaust, that is what it is going to lead to. The Nazi’s and Hitler did not start with killing. It all started with hate, propaganda, hateful speech – this is how it began. So, the hatred has to stop. The Germans were ordinary human beings like you and I – and look what hatred and antisemitism did to them, they became monsters.
It saddens me that many under the age of 30 today don’t even know what the Holocaust means or have no idea how many died from it. But I know that teaching the Holocaust is the best way to defeat increasing racism, discrimination and bullying. When we educate people about this subject, we in turn, promote tolerance, respect and diversity.
A person can choose to hate. A person can choose not to use hateful speech. A person can choose to not become a perpetrator or a bystander. An oppressor cannot succeed on his or her own. When someone is being victimized – whether by a school-yard bully or a maniacal national leader – those who are not victims make the choice to join the bully or to become the bystander who does nothing.” – Ben Lesser
These are the words that get me up and keep me going. Never has there been a greater demand in our lifetime than today to listen and act on my grandfather’s words of hope, help, and healing.
I have to teach my kids to face this head on. We must not be Bystanders. We must be Upstanders. We all have to stand up, speak out, and be proud of who we are and find beauty in our differences.It’s our goal to recognize what is happening in and around us, and what we as a community can do. To start, let’s talk about it. We need to keep this conversation going, even after the media cycle moves on to the next news item.
It is important to remember, that antisemitism may start with Jews but it never ends with them. It’s even more important to teach the origins of hatred, and the differences of labeling and stereotyping to prevent the growth of the seeding hatred from within.
Words DO Matter. Actions MATTER. History is FACT. There is NO place for ANTISEMITISM.
To learn more and understand the impact of antisemitism please visit ADL, https://www.adl.org. To learn more and support our efforts to educate our youth about antisemitism and the Holocaust, please visit The ZACHOR Holocaust Remembrance Foundation: www.zachorfoundation.org