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The troubling rise of anti-semitism in neighboring high schools

Photo of the flag of Israel waving next an American flag.
Photo by Ted Eytan
Photo of the flag of Israel waving next an American flag. Photo by Ted Eytan
By Lorenzo Limarzi–

Across America, and unfortunately right here in the DMV, there have been a disturbing and rapid growth in anti-semitic incidents.  According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2021 Virginia reported 46 anti-semitic incidents, Washington, D.C. reported 53, and Maryland reported 55. The District and Maryland ranked 12th and 11th, respectively, as the states with the highest count of anti-semitic incidents. These incidents can range from a shout to graffiti to even a violent assault. It is easy to tell when these incidents take place, but it is much more difficult to try and explain why the increase in anti-semitism has occurred. Experts say that there are two main causes. The first cause is explained by NPR’s Lisa Hagen in an article written about this same topic.

“Whenever a minority group is blamed for some real or perceived harm, such narratives almost always find ways to also attack Jews based on centuries-old myths about Jewish control and disloyalty,” Hagen wrote. “For those who are upset about Black people demonstrating against racism, or blame a pandemic on anyone who looks Asian, or are angry about the visibility of transgender people or queer culture […] it’s a short leap to conspiracist thinking.”

What this means is that anytime something goes wrong, or there is any disdain at all, the Jewish community faces unmerited backlash that is based on stereotypes and conspiracy theories. There is no space laser, the Rothschild Family does not control the world, those are just the most obvious examples of conspiracy, and it shows just how dumb the conspiracies themselves are.

The second cause of this anti-semitic surge is influencers and politicians like Donald Trump, Kanye West, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar; these people are openly and unapologetically anti semitic. While Kanye has faced severe backlash and protests of his music, politicians like the ones mentioned above continue to get elected to the House of Representatives with very little to no repercussions. These unabashed and unpunished displays of anti-semitism prove to adults and high schoolers and even middle schoolers that this kind of treatment is acceptable. That it is acceptable to be anti-semitic and that people can get away with it. This then obviously leads to people being anti-semitic which is what we’re seeing now, and we’re seeing it very very close to home.

Specifically in Montgomery County public schools, which is my home county. At Walt Whitman High School the phrase “Jews Not Welcome” was painted on the school’s sign outside. Swastikas and 1488’s, a white supremacists symbol, have been scribbled on desks and lockers in high schools and even middle schools across Montgomery County. These same symbols were spray painted at the Bethesda Trolley Trail, a public park, in massive red spray paint. All of this is happening across the country, and most of this hatred and evil is coming from kids like me. Kids applying to colleges like me, kids worried about going on dates like me, kids who may not know that all of this anti-semitism is happening. There has always been racism and homophobia, which my generation has of course contributed to, but rarely like this. Never in my lifetime has anti-black or anti-LGBT graffiti shown up in public twice in the span of two months. This anti-semitism that we’re seeing is new, it is abundant and it is because of people like me.

There are so many people in my generation who recognize all of the flaws in the world- racially, environmentally and economically. However, now I fear that some of the people who recognize these issues are contributing to one of them right now. Adults, kids my age and kids even younger than me are being shown that this kind of behavior is acceptable, and they are following suit. People are showing overt, despicable racism in a place that I have always been proud to call home. At this time, anti-semitism is so widespread, so popular and so recent that we need to prioritize ending antisemitism in our communities here and now.

Now how can we effectively deal with this antisemitism? For starters, go to the Fight Anti-semitism | ADL website. This link teaches how to recognize and fight anti-semitism as well as providing the resources to report and learn about antisemitism as a whole. While this site is an invaluable asset for people trying to fight anti-semitism, one of the simplest solutions is to use your head.

Anyone reading this article is in high school or above; you can think. You should be able to know when someone is being anti-semitic, and if not, then I urge you to use the ADL website and other resources to learn about anti-semitism and how to call people, especially people close to you out for doing the wrong thing. It is imperative to prevent antisemitism in every instance, and I urge you all to spread awareness on the subject.

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