Students face new threats to their religion and identity
Newsfeeds are filled with reports of Jewish cemetary destruction, pictures of cribs being wheeled out of evacuated JCC daycares and stories of congregations fleeing their synagogues for safety.
This may seem foreign to the progressive Seattle community, but with the recent rise of anti-Semitism across the country, many Jewish communities within the city have experienced hate firsthand.
Though minority communities have long been targeted, there was a reported surge in hate crimes including anti-Semitic acts in the past year. Researcher and professorBrian Levin of California State University, San Bernardino, found that data from nine major U.S. cities, Seattle included, showed an overall 23 percent increase in reported hate crimes from the previous year.
In early March, Temple De Hirsch Sinai of Capitol Hill was vandalized with spray paint declaring: “Holocaust is fake history.” Senior Isabel Klein, a member of Temple De Hirsch Sinai, never expected the Seattle community to ever face anti-Semitism to this degree. Klein described the hate crime as a “wakeup call.” “[Temple De Hirsch Sinai has] always had these armed security guards for our temple. I’ve never thought much of it,” she said. “I never thought that anyone would ever have that much hate towards my community.”
Similarly to Klein, Junior Lila Greene, a member of Temple Beth Am has become more aware of her Judaism in the wake of recent incidents, even in regards to simple choices like clothing. “I go to Jewish summer camp and we get shirts with Jewish stars on them. [People suggested], ‘Maybe don’t wear that out and about.’ Or, ‘Maybe don’t wear your Jewish star necklace,’” Greene said.
Klein felt disturbed following the events at her temple. “It’s crushing to have this community that I’ve grown up with and had an exclusively positive experience with get this anonymous hate,” she said.
Different experiences of Klein and Greene have made threats to their First Amendment rights hit home. In Greene’s case, she noticed how significant the problem is when her Hebrew school took new action to ensure safety: “Before Hebrew school my teacher went over what our procedure would be if a bomb threat were called in,” she said.
Much of Klein’s fear lies in what is unknown about the recent series of events. “Even though there hasn’t been a violent threat [against my community], it’s definitely leaning towards the direction of people feeling able to express hate against others,” she said.
Greene has found that in light of the recent attacks against the local Jewish community, organizations are becoming closer and better connected. “When Temple De Hirsch Sinai was vandalized, that was a really big deal for every single temple,” she said. “It wasn’t like De Hirsch was attacked, it was like all of us were attacked.”
Greene also believes that there is a reason all members of both the Seattle community, especially the UPrep community, should be alarmed by this even if they do not identify as Jewish, Temple Beth Am located directly next to the school.
“A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, this doesn’t affect me. Some of my friends go to that temple, but I’m not Jewish,’” Greene said. “This isn’t just about Jewish people. If Temple Beth Am gets a bomb threat during the day, [our school] get[s] a bomb threat. We may not all be Jewish, but we’re all still people.”
By Beatrice Cappio