Photo from Ted Eytan/Creative Commons
Anti-Semitism is a huge issue in the world and more specifically in our country. In 2019, there were the highest levels of anti-Semitism in the United States since the 1970s — more than 2,100 cases of assault, vandalism and harassment of Jews, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
As a member of the Jewish community, this issue means a lot to me. There are two incidents in particular that need to be addressed, both being anti-Semitic comments made by professional athletes in the past year. Although these aren’t examples of physical violence, they’re vital to the overall issue of anti-Semitism in the nation and how a lack of education plays a role in ignorance.
In July 2020, NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson posted on his Instagram story a quote often attributed to Adolf Hitler, saying “Jews will blackmail America.” He singled out the quote that says “they will extort America, their plan for world domination won’t work if the Negroes know who they are.”
I was shocked when I saw this. Claiming that the Jews will blackmail, extort and take over the country, so everyone else should watch out was ignorant of him to say.
Jackson ultimately apologized for the post, and fellow wide receiver Julian Edelman offered to take him to the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to help educate Jackson about Jewish history.
The other incident happened recently on March 9. During a Twitch livestream, NBA player Meyers Leonard called his video game opponent a “kike,” a derogatory word used against Jews. It’s extremely anti-Semitic, and Leonard’s ignorance when saying it was concerning. When Leonard apologized, he said that he didn’t know the history or the exact meaning of the word. Edelman, just like with Jackson, reached out to Leonard and offered to help educate him on Jewish history and culture. I love that Edelman offered to have a Shabbat dinner with Leonard.
Both athletes sent a message that Jewish people have bad intentions for everyone but themselves, which creates a stereotype of Jews being selfish and morally bad people. It’s also a false claim that disrespects the entire religion. People have no right to attack Jews in this manner, and I’m offended by the thought of being targeted just because of my religion.
The problem with these incidents is more than just individual accounts of anti-Semitism. The issue is that there are people all over the country who share the same ignorant thoughts Jackson portrayed or make anti-Semitic comments like Leonard did. However, not all people are being educated like the two athletes are. More education about anti-Semitism and Jewish history could help lower the levels of hate against Jews in the nation and help prevent anti-Semitic events from happening again.
As a Quinnipiac University student, I’ve had to mentally adjust from living in a town with a high Jewish population to dorming at a school where I’m a minority. Out of the 7,425 undergraduate students at Quinnipiac in 2019, only 350 were Jewish (4.7%). Out of the 2,782 graduate students, 50 were Jewish (1.8%), according to Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.
This is a huge issue in terms of awareness of Jewish history and culture, as there is likely a low amount due to the number of Jews at Quinnipiac.
I’m doing my best to help the Jewish community thrive. I’m a member of the Suffolk County Jewish Advisory Board, which deals with issues regarding the Jewish community, including anti-Semitism. Our board is currently working on a contest for all schools in Suffolk in which students can write a paper about anti-Semitism for a prize. This encourages students to conduct research about anti-Semitism, which will go a long way toward spreading awareness about the problem.
Hopefully, more people spread this kind of information that can help limit anti-Semitic incidents from occurring in the country. That would mean a lot to the Jewish community.