Jewish Ferndale panelists included Howard Lupovitch and Carolyn Normandin, who moderated a conversation on hate and advocacy.
Understanding and confronting the recent rise in anti-Semitism and other forms of hate was explored recently at Jewish Ferndale’s bi-monthly discussion series.
Rabbi Herschel Finman and his wife, Chana, hosted 35 guests May 16 at their Chabad center in Ferndale. Local journalist Julie Edgar moderated a conversation featuring Howard Lupovitch, history professor and director of the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies at Wayne State University, and Carolyn Normandin, ADL Michigan regional director.
“All anti-Semitism is reprehensible,” Lupovitch said. The harder anti-Semitism of the right is perpetrated by xenophobic, white nationalists, such as those who marched and chanted against Jews in Charlottesville, Va. He said homegrown white terrorists carried out mass shootings of Jews at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and Chabad of Powway near San Diego.
Normandin also noted the worldwide increase in terrorism fueled by hate. This year’s bombings in Sri Lanka and shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, are part of the trend.
The right’s anti-Semitism is “more racial in nature, like Nazi anti-Semitism,” Lupovitch said. “The goal is to make Jews disappear.”
The anti-Semitism expressed on the left is “softer and more political,” he said. It takes the form of verbal, written and pictorial attacks on “the Jew as capitalist, the Jew as exploiter, the Jew as imperialist.” Some on the political left speak of Israel as an “oppressor of non-Jewish people.”
Strong Jewish protests followed incidents in this category. Because of their politics, two University of Michigan educators refused to write letters of recommendation for their students to study in Israel. An anti-Semitic cartoon was published in the New York Times and circulated online. Democratic U.S. Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan made statements criticized as anti-Zionist and/or anti-Semitic.
Normandin, who knows Tlaib from working on issues together, said reports of what Tlaib has said are not all factual.
“She has said, ‘I really care about the Jewish people’ and, after talking with her, I believe she was clumsy about some of her rhetoric,” she said.
When Normandin explained to Tlaib the difference between being anti-Israel and being opposed to its governmental policies, “a light bulb went off and she understood. Now she’ll speak out against Israeli policies,” Normandin said. “The jury is still out. I’ll continue educating her until I cannot.”
The left’s anti-Semitism is “not as dangerous and menacing as anti-Semitism on the right. They are not the same,” Lupovitch said. He contended that “if the Israel-Palestinian conflict was resolved, much of the anti-Semitism (on the left) would dissolve.”
The speakers agreed on reasons for the growing expressions of hate.
For those seeking to radicalize the target group of young white men ages 18-28, “Twitter is Public Enemy No. 1 for promulgating hate,” Normandin said.
“Social media inflames people and helps them find each other,” Edgar said.
Lupovitch also suggested “the rhetoric of the last couple of years has emboldened haters to be more confrontational.”
Normandin said ADL does “a lot of ally-building in public schools,” helping younger students to accept others. It also distributes anti-hate materials to religious schools in Michigan.
“Jewish college students need to be able to handle verbal confrontations,” Lupovitch said. “We must help them to be tough enough and provide the facts about the Middle East.”