Why Anti-Semitism Remains So Important To The Alt-Right

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The “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville reminds us how deeply rooted anti-Semitism is within the Alt-Right camp. White supremacists and neo-Nazis parading with giant swastikas, immediately went after Jews with anti-Semitic and Nazi chants.

Why were Jews the primary target of the rally? Why is anti-Semitism so embedded in the Alt-Right?

Behind the stereotypes the Alt-Right convey about Jews, the disproportionate role that the Jewish community has played on behalf of other minorities, is the source of the Alt-Right’s anti-Semitism. No segment of American society has provided as much and as consistent support to other ethnic groups and their struggle for civil rights and social justice, as has the Jewish community.

Fighting for the other, the Alt-Right will never forgive us.

In the 1950’s and 60’s, the Jewish community played a singular role in partnership with Dr. King and the African American community that resulted in many of the greatest social and political changes in the history of our nation.

As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our Jewish friends have demonstrated their commitment to the principle of tolerance and brotherhood not only in the form of sizable contributions, but in many other tangible ways, and often at great personal sacrifice. Can we ever express our appreciation to the rabbis who chose to give moral witness with us in St. Augustine? Do we have to remind anyone of the awful beating suffered by Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld of Cleveland when he joined the civil rights workers or in Hattiesburg, Mississippi? And who can ever forget the sacrifice of two Jewish lives, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, in the swamps of Mississippi? It would be impossible to record the contribution that the Jewish people have made toward our people’s struggle for freedom — it has been so great.”

Fighting for the other, the Alt-Right will never forgive us.

Sixty years later, the American Jewish community is at the forefront of standing up for American Muslims by combatting Islamophobia and other attacks on Muslims across America.

Since 2007, when the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU) initiated the first Summit of North American Imams and Rabbis, the American Muslim and Jewish communities have been working hard to build ties of communication and cooperation. Hundreds of synagogues, mosques, and Muslim and Jewish organizations across the U.S. have taken part in twinning events, while grass-roots Jews and Muslims in a number of cities have formed Muslim-Jewish solidarity committees.

Jews have donated to repair mosques that were defaced or burned. Muslims raised money to repair vandalized Jewish cemeteries. Rabbis and imams marched together against President Trump’s travel ban targeting majority Muslim countries.

Six months ago, FFEU’s New York City wide rally in the streets of Time Square witnessed thousands of Jewish participants chanting in unison “Today, I am a Muslim Too.”

The sense of empathy. The spirit of fighting for the other. History has taught us that casual Jews become Jewish casualties. It is no wonder that the Jewish community is at the vanguard of speaking out for all victims of racial oppression, bigotry and discrimination. American Jews understand that a people who fight for their own rights are only as honorable as when they fight for the rights of all people.

For that, the Alt-Right will never forgive us.

Rabbi Marc Schneier is the founder and president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU). He is the author of Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr and the Jewish Community and Sons of Abraham: A Candid Conversation about the Issues That Divide and Unite Jews and Muslims.

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