Pittsburgh is the most recent victim of the growing division within our country. As a group of Jewish worshipers practiced their freedom of religion on Saturday, a man open-fired in a synagogue, murdering 11 people. Anti-Semitism fueled Robert Bower’s massacre.
Although anti-Semitism is commonly associated with the Nazis of Adolf Hitler’s regime in the 1930s and 1940s, anti-Semitism has a foothold in American society dating back over a century. Despite immigrant origins, Americans engaged in anti-Semitic practices with growing animosity prevalent during the world wars.
In the 1880s, many Eastern European Jews immigrated to American cities, increasing the Jewish demographic exponentially. While many came for liberation, oppression followed. Lynchings, threats from the Klu Klux Klan and even blatant condemnation from American leaders such as Henry Ford and Supreme Court Justice James C. McReynolds.
In the 1920s and ‘30s, the Jewish community became a scapegoat for America’s hardships such as the Great Depression or even involvement in the world wars. Although America helped the Allies defeat Adolf Hitler and his horrid crimes against Jews, the United States had its own problems with anti-Semitism.
The persecution of the Jewish population is thankfully not on the same scale as the Holocaust. But it would be naïve to deny the anti-Semitism present in modern America.
Of course, there has been progress, and the anti-Semitism of modernity is not of the same caliber as that of the early nineteenth century. But in the same way African Americans, women, Latino and other minorities are still fighting for fundamental equality, so are Jewish communities.
According to an article from CNN, Bowers wanted “to kill Jews.” He had a history of making threats and posting hostile comments towards Jewish-Americans online. This fact cannot be ignored; the incident in Pittsburgh is more than a shooting. It demonstrates the enduring racism and anti-Semitism in American society.
This country is now at a crossroads. We can either mourn another tragedy prompted by hate, or we can pursue radical change. To suppose we can change the mindset of all Americans would be naïve, but we must strive to create a culture of loving acceptance in our country.