Vlad Khaykin directs the Anti-Defamation League’s programs on anti-Semitism.
For him, it’s personal.
He was born in the Soviet Union where Jew-hatred was entrenched in society.
Khaykin’s grandparents survived the Holocaust. Other family members did not. Today he is grateful – and protective – of the safety he enjoys. But that safety is threatened.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that anti-Semitic attacks hit an all-time high in 2019, remained at historically high levels in 2020 and now recent incidents have the Jewish community on edge. Khaykin says hostility against Jews tends to gain ground during times of uncertainty: be that economic depression, war or pandemic. If there is anxiety, some people will turn to anti-Semitism for “an answer for why things are going wrong in the world.”
In the United States, the Jewish population makes up just over 2 percent of the population. But anti-Semitism affects everyone, and everyone should be concerned.
Khaykin points out that persistent, historic and patently untrue canards against the Jewish people perpetuate fundamental flaws in society.
“It breeds conspiracy theories that distort our ability to make informed decisions, which are central to any democracy,” he said. “It is anti-democratic. It is anti-intellectual. It leads to contempt for knowledge, learning, expertise.”
Former US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power described it as the “canary in the coal mine.”
Here are a few things that everyone can do to help fight anti-Semitism.
Educate yourself and be an advocate
No matter where you live, you can help. As Khaykin points out, “you don’t need to know any Jews” to want to make the world a better place for everyone.
The ADL has many educational online programs and resources available. They range from anti-bias training to anti-Semitism education.
Advocate for others’ education and protection. Approach schools and centers of learning about adding programs and curriculums on the Holocaust and anti-Semitism. Echoes & Reflections is an online program that focuses on Holocaust education in the classroom. Tennessee school officials said their vote to ban Holocaust graphic novel “Maus” was meant to shelter students from foul language and nudity. But advocates say books like these are important tools in teaching younger generations.
The US Holocaust Memorial Museum is another resource where one can learn not only about the Holocaust but find educational information on anti-Semitism and its impact today.
Stop the spread
This means not just speaking out against hate speech you hear, but reporting what you see on social media. The pandemic has fueled a lot of conspiracy theories, and several prominent people have compared vaccine requirements or mask mandates to the Holocaust. This type of rhetoric demeans the actual atrocities of the Holocaust.
“Attempts to minimize through absurd comparisons, to minimize the horror and enormity of the Holocaust, are really pernicious,” Khaykin said. “Scholars of genocide have said that the final act of genocide is the denial of the genocide.”
Germany has strict laws against hate speech and Holocaust denials, but in the US such speech is harder to regulate. Private companies like Facebook, however, have rules against it. You just need to report it when you see it – every time you see it.
Be involved and aware of what is happening in your community. In August, the ADL, the Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI held a community outreach event raising awareness about how they work together to combat anti-Semitism. The ADL has 25 regional offices around the country and work closely with law enforcement agencies. As interest in communities grows about what is being done to combat hate, these type events are more likely to happen in the future.
If you or a loved one experience anti-Semitism
Report it immediately. The ADL has an online form where you can report any incidents of “anti-Semitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate.” Note, this is not just for people who experienced anti-Jewish hostility. This is for anyone targeted for their “religion, race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin or level of ability.” Reportable activity could be anything from seeing a hate symbol on the street to kids getting bullied at school or online.
Here you can upload video and photos of the incident and someone will contact you. The ADL keeps track of all reported anti-Semitic and hate crime incidents.
Khaykin said, “Anti-Semitism doesn’t just show up in our schools, in our workplaces. It’s everywhere. It pervades every aspect of our civilization.”
The only way to stop the cycle of ignorance and hate is through knowledge and love.