Local News

Recent reminders show anti-Semitism not a thing of the past

Posted January 27, 2021 5:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2021 7:17 p.m. EST

— On International Holocaust Remembrance Day, members of the local Jewish community said Wednesday that recent acts of anti-Semitism show hate remains alive and isn't just a relic of the past.

Jan. 27 marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp by Allied soldiers in 1945, near the end of World War II.

But 76 years later, anti-Semitism is growing across the U.S. The Anti-Defamation League reports that incidents nationwide spiked in 2016 – 1,324 incidents were reported that year, up from 63 in 2015 – and have continued a steady rise since then, to nearly 6,300 incidents last year.

"We don’t believe that something like the Holocaust couldn’t happen again. The Holocaust happened. It was done by people," said Rabbi Daniel Greyber of Beth El Synagogue in Durham.

Last week, a Nazi flag was found attached to a tree near Wake Forest next to a campaign sign for President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Over the weekend, swastikas, racial slurs and threats were found inside a building on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill that serves as a hub for student social justice groups.

"Swastikas are symbols of hate against the Jewish people, but they’re also symbols of hate against America," Greyber said. "The idea that somebody could put it up in a public place and somehow conflate that with being a patriot is disgusting and makes no sense."

Former President Donald Trump and the heated political climate are partly to blame for the problem, Greyber said.

"I do think that President Trump gave permission, in ways big and small, for many people who have such views that used to be really not OK in the public sphere [or] in the public discourse," he said. "[They] have now gained a certain ... acceptance, or people feel that there was a leader who was on the same page as they were."

Someone shredded and removed the Nazi flag in Wake County after a day. UNC campus police said they have identified a suspect in the vandalism there but hadn't charged anyone as of Wednesday evening.

The UNC-Chapel Hill Faculty Executive Committee has scheduled a special meeting about the vandalism on Friday.

"When people see swastikas being placed in public places on a more regular basis, what we see is hatred being allowed to flourish," Greyber said. "That gives us a sense of concern because, ultimately, like other minorities, we are not in the majority, and so we live with a certain vulnerability."

Our commenting policy has changed. If you would like to comment, please share on social media using the icons below and comment there.