It is no secret that anti-Semitism is on the rise across the world. It feels barely a week goes by without reports of a Jewish person being attacked, or of Jewish graveyards being smashed to smithereens.
In the UK, the number of anti-Semitic hate incidents recorded in the UK has reached a record high. Jewish charity the Community Security Trust says it recorded 1,805 anti-Semitic incidents last year. Recently, a 17-year-old from Durham was jailed for planning to blow up synagogues, and, per a police counter-terrorism statement in 2019, the far-right is now the fastest growing terror threat in Britain. Globally, we saw the Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh, in the US, in which 11 worshippers were murdered, and just last year a shooting near a synagogue in Halle, Germany in which two souls were taken (the gunman admitted a far-right, anti-Semitic motive, in court.)
In June, groups of men marched in London throwing Nazi salutes, and shouting racist abuse. Then of course, there is the anti-Semitism in politics: be it the Labour crisis, or allegations of anti-Jewish racism within the Conservative party. Away from home, there's the rise of far-right governments like that of Donald Trump–who calls Jews that don’t vote for him 'disloyal.' The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous and hostile place for Jewish people, and this takes a significant toll on one’s mental health.
As a Jewish woman, the rise in anti-Semitic violence terrifies me. Last year, after the attack in Halle on Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, I found myself too scared to go to my own service–messaging friends to be extra careful as they did, perhaps taking their kippas [head coverings traditionally worn by men, but also by women in recent years, in progressive forms of Judaism] off, until they got through the doors.
I am mindful of wearing any jewellery that is too obviously Jewish. This includes a recently purchased necklace with tiny, discreet Magen David (star of David). I am increasingly nervous about disclosing my Jewishness, often in circumstances where someone is being anti-Semitic in front of me, unaware that I’m part of the group they are speaking so poisonously about. In February, a woman I spoke to at an event started talking about how Jews 'control everything'–a textbook anti-Semitic trope.
This is exhausting. I can only imagine what Jews who wear clothing that clearly identifies them as Jewish, such as the ultra-Orthodox community, go through; just a few months ago a Rabbi was left beaten and bloody in the street in Stamford Hill.
Then, of course, is the abuse on social media. For me, it's vicious and relentless. Grime artist Wiley has recently been in the spotlight for his anti-Semitic tirade, which went virtually unchecked for the best part of 48 hours. (He has now been removed from Twitter, the platform he unleashed his hateful words on, as well as Instagram and Facebook. He has since apologised for 'generalising,' but not for his actual remarks.)
But his case is just a manifestation of the broader issues on social media. The racism that minorities face in the virtual world is relentless, and it feels that Jews have become a plaything for online trolls.
I personally have received anti-Semitic abuse on the platform, both from people claiming to be allies of the Jewish community, and from people that clearly just hate Jews. I am listed on a neo-Nazi list of Jewish people, which they lifted from social media (there are thousands of Jews listed on there.) I have been stalked, which lead to me calling the police, and I am currently in the process of organising legal proceedings.
Cyber forums have been discovered on which neo-Nazis discuss their plans to masquerade as Jewish people online to sow division within the community, or to pose as Black people online to attack Jewish people with anti-Semitic abuse. I also experience, at times, a unique form of abuse due to my being Black.
This has included being told I wasn’t Black by Wiley, when I challenged his Twitter hate, being called a 'white supremacist Zionist cunt whore', being called a 'kapo' (this word referred to a prisoner in a Nazi camp who was assigned by SS guards to supervise forced labour) or being called a 'fake Jew.' Indeed, trolls have even threatened to contact my employers, or to interfere in my private life.
In sum, it is really hard to manage the plethora of emotions that come with all of this. There are, of course, things like feeling alienated or marginalised, but there’s also the fear; anxiety; depression. Sometimes this is so intense I experience physical nausea.
Sitting up until 3am on the phone to a parent, crying, as I have done, is not something I would wish on anybody. The way I try and deal with it, when it doesn’t get on top of me, is to try and de-centre myself: to see the abuse as part of a larger issue that needs to be addressed, rather than a personal attack. I know so many other Jews experience the same abuse, and if I can use my platform and voice to raise awareness on the issue, I will.
But, when employers are contacted; your name is added to a neo-Nazis target list or people spread lies about you within your communities, it becomes incredibly hard to keep a brave face. It’s made all the worse by the fact that the issue is proliferating, not waning.
Ultimately, I fear for the future. Likewise, I fear for the future of any children I may have, and, broadly, I fear for the direction society is going in. It is becoming increasingly unsafe to be Jewish–and indeed, to be any other minority.
So I will continue to speak out, where I can. Increasingly, I am being mindful of the toll all this takes on my mental health and work to distance myself where possible, though that’s far from easy.
But I speak out in the hope that using my voice will protect the safety and the mental health of others. It's a profound burden. But we cannot let hate win.
If you witness an anti-Semitic incident
- In an emergency, always ring 999 first. You can then ring the Community Security Trust (CST) National Emergency Number (24-hour): 0800 032 3263
- In a non-emergency, you can call the police on 101, and then CST London on 0208 457 9999, or Manchester & northern regions on 0161 792 6666
- Report to the CST by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
If you need help with your mental health
- If you are Jewish and need support with your mental health, you can contact Jami on 020 8458 2223 or visit the Jami website
- If you need to talk to someone about your mental health, you can call the Samaritans on 116 123, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
- For more information on mental health, you can call the Mind infoline: 0300 123
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