Donald Trump’s unexpected victory last weak appears to have triggered antisemitic incidents — sending anxiety soaring, as American Jews grapple with the reality of a president-elect who has been the candidate-of-choice for many antisemites over the previous months.
Whilst these incidents are not to suggest that Trump himself is an antisemite, many American Jews are worried about the atmosphere in the country, particularly given that Stephen Bannon, a journalist who has been accused of antisemitism, looks set to land an advisory position within Trump’s administration.
“The white supremacists out there are celebrating his victory and many are feeling their oats,” said Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, in an article in USA TODAY. And, as a result, the swastika, a favorite symbol of hatemongers, has made an ugly post-election appearance on American college campuses.
We recently reported that The New York City police department is investigating swastika graffiti at The New School. The swastikas were drawn on several residence hall doors, including the door of a suite where three Jewish women live. The university’s president, David E. Van Zandt, told Time magazine “that someone would attempt to create fear amongst us is inexcusable”. Campus security has been increased.
The Burlington Free Press reports that a swastika was painted on a Trump campaign poster that was found three doors down from the Hillel Center at the University of Vermont. In an email to the Burlington Press, Deputy Chief, Shawn Burke, wrote that “the incident is of concern given the proximity of the sign to the Hillel”. Matt Vogel, the campus director of Hillel, told Time that “for many Jewish students, no matter how they voted, seeing that symbol of hate is a very powerful thing for them”. Whilst this could be an act of protest, its proximity to Jewish students may suggest otherwise.
A swastika, with the word, “Trump”, defaced a dorm wall at the State University of New York, Geneseo. In addition, a swastika and the words, “Heil Trump”, were found at a bus stop at the University of California at San Diego. Both universities have called in the police to investigate and have condemned the incidents.
But universities have not been the only targets. In Easthampton, Massachusetts, a swastika and the words, “Gas the Jews”, were painted on Mount Tom, which is part of the Mount Holyoke mountain range. The vandalism sparked public outrage. Volunteers painted over the antisemitic graffiti. There has also been “no Jews” graffiti in New York and some people believe that similar incidents have been inspired by Trump’s election in Canada, with an Ottawa Rabbi having her house vandalized with a Swastika and the word “kike”.
An enormous swastika, along with the words, “Make America White Again”, were also discovered on a softball dugout in Wellsville, New York. The antisemitic graffiti was removed by concerned volunteers. Wellsville police are investigating.
And in South Philadelphia, on November 9, the day that Trump was elected, the word, “Trump”, with the a swastika substituting for the “T”, and the words, “Sieg Heil 2016”, were found defacing the storefront of a closed business. Police are investigating. November 9 is also the 78th anniversary of Germany’s Kristallnacht, or the Night of Broken Glass, which historians view as the starting point of the Holocaust, and in which hundreds of Jewish businesses were destroyed. This for Nancy Baron-Baer, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, has made “this singular event all the more distressing and horrifying”.
Although Trump has stated that he has no ties to hate groups, synagogues across America have been flooded with members, who are both frightened and worried about their safety, now that Trump is president. Rabbi Daniel Bogard, 33, of Adath Ariel, a Conservative synagogue in Cincinnati, stated in an article in the Jewish Telegraph Agency, that before the election, “I would have told you antisemitism was absent [in America]”.
But now Bogard finds that he is waking up in the middle of the night “in a cold sweat because of the election. I talk to a lot of people who have the 4 a.m. election night fears”, he said.
Suzanne Reisman, 40, a writer living in New York City, who has been the target of antisemitic hate on Twitter, understands that kind of anxiety. She told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “my grandparents were Holocaust survivors. I hope it won’t come to it”, but since her family has passports, “if we have to flee, we are ready”. Actress Emily Rossum has also been targeted by Trump supporters on Twitter following the election results, being told that her and “her ilk” would be sent to the gas chambers.
Donald Trump himself cannot be held to account for the wave of antisemitic actions which may have been ignited by his victory. However, this ongoing wave of antisemitism after the election is indicative of deep divides within American society, and serves as a reminder that at times of uncertainty, it is often Jews who will bear the brunt of a society’s tensions. It is our hope that Donald Trump will utterly repudiate these actions, and those which are affecting other minority groups in America, and begin working to unite the American people in an inclusive way.