I’m 25 and Jewish. And never once in those 25 years have I personally experienced anti-Semitism. Until earlier this month.
I wasn’t ignorant. I knew the atrocities of the past, knew Jews were still targets of many, but I never experienced it. I grew up in a wealthy suburb of Atlanta. There were three to five Jewish kids in all of my public school classes, so not only did I never experience anti-Semitism, but I also never experienced the unsettling feeling of being “the other.”
I grew up surrounded by a thriving and supportive community of Jews who mixed in without any discord with the religious majorities of our city. Literally, the most disconcerting thing to happen to me up until yesterday was when a girl in my dorm at the University of Georgia asked completely innocently if I “spoke Jewish.” She wasn’t being hateful — she just didn’t know. She was embarrassed and apologetic when I said the language was called Hebrew.
But then earlier this month, Trump tweeted a graphic using the Star of David. The caption read: “Most Corrupt Candidate Ever.”
Trump quickly took down the tweet and replaced it the exact same image but with a circle pasted on top of the Star of David. Look closely at the two images: you can still see the points in the second one.
He changed the image, but it’s the Internet. We saw it. You can’t erase it. A presidential candidate used the symbol of the Star of David and piles of money to insinuate that Hillary Clinton, like all the hateful Jewish stereotypes out there, is sneaky and flushed with cash and uses that cash to do her sneaky Jew-bidding.
So, okay. Let’s give Trump literally ALL the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he didn’t realize it was a Star of David — it wasn’t yellow, it was filled-in, it comes up in choices of automatic shapes. Or we can say Trump didn’t even know the tweet was going out. It didn’t get his approval.
But even assuming all of that — you know what any decent politician, or you know person, would’ve done after receiving a backlash that his attack was akin to Nazi propaganda? He would’ve apologized to the Jewish people. He could’ve even gotten away with one of those bullshit apologies where the person says, “I’m sorry if you felt attacked. I’m sorry if your feelings were hurt.”
But nothing. Radio silence. And why?
Because his supporters fucking loved it.
We’ve known for a long time the hate that’s been brewing in this country. We know Donald Trump has been silently and not-so-silently condoning all of it. So when I tweeted my outrage at the anti-Semitic graphic, I wasn’t surprised I received a few messages telling me I was an overreacting liberal Jew.
I sent out messages like this:
So, of course, I expected some of the Trump Trolls to come out of their caves and tweet idiocy. Early on, one sent me this. I was horrified, attacked, disgusted, so I took a screenshot of the picture and asked my followers to report the account.
I thought that was the end of it. I went downstairs to have dinner with my family. When I got back online, these were my notifications:
My first instinct was terror: block, report, put account on private. But after a few minutes, I remembered the words of the man who passed away last night, Holocaust Survivor & Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Elie Wiesel: “Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I understand why many have to put their accounts on private. It’s triggering. Terrifying. Decades ago, our families were slaughtered by the millions for their religion, and now that rhetoric is coming back. There’s no shame in fear and wanting to protect yourself. But I knew silence would only help me, and I wanted to help many, so I posted:
The flood of support was overwhelming. The original tweet has almost 40,000 impressions. I received support from not just friends and peers but also fellow authors I admire, older Jews who’ve been fighting this fight since before I was born, and even my celebrity name-twin Laura J Silverman, who also received a slew of anti-Semitic hate last night.
The support was overwhelming, but the threats still sneaked in through the flood:
I’m a writer. For the past few months, I’ve been working on a Young Adult book that tackles many things, including anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, politics, etc. When I began writing the book I knew very little about the world past my own experiences, but that was kind of the point. I was writing the perspective of a Jewish teenage character just like myself, one who had never faced anti-Semitism.
But it’s a novel, so I had to give him an inciting incident, one of cruel hate, something powerful enough to open his eyes and question what’s happening around him. I was researching and learning about the world with him, but there was one key difference: I had no inciting incident.
But when those volley of death threats were sent my way, I had to take a step back — because I never imagined when starting the book that our two worlds would merge so succinctly, that suddenly now I’m not just tackling anti-Semitism for others — I’m tackling it for myself.
“A lot of people say Trump isn’t really racist. A lot of people say he’s just doing it to get votes. A lot of people don’t understand that’s just as dangerous ...”
For months now, I’ve been asking how any minority or any marginalized group supports Donald Trump. Any woman, any POC, any person of the LGBTQA+ community, any Muslim, any Jew. He has threatened us all; he has condoned his supporters threatening us all. For months now, I’ve been actively pointing out the hate and the dangers we face under a Trump presidency.
And then on the day Elie Wiesel died, the hate pivoted to me.
A lot of people say Trump isn’t really racist. A lot of people say he’s just doing it to get votes. A lot of people don’t understand that’s just as dangerous — he’s created a toxic atmosphere where death threats from white supremacists are the new norm.
So I ask again — I plead again — take a step back and look at what you’re voting for before you accidentally vote against yourself.
A version of this post originally appeared on Medium.