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Make Your Voice and Your Vote Heard Against Anti-Semitism

You may be wondering what you can do in this terrible time, with raging anti-Semitism and racism infecting our political discourse.  Last weekend's tragic shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh is believed to be the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history, but it is only the culmination of a recent surge of anti-Semitic incidents and attacks in this country that began five years ago. The Anti-Defamation League’s 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents reported a 57% increase in incidents in the U.S. over 2016, the largest single-year rise on record. Jewish schoolchildren have been the most frequent targets of the rising tide of violent threats. While anti-Semitism has always lurked in some dark corners of U.S. political discourse, in the past few years it has seeped into mainstream conversations. Commentators have observed that anti-Semitism has featured frequently, often slightly disguised, in the remarks of President Trump. Trump famously said there were “some very fine people” among the neo-Nazi Unite-the- Right marchers in Charlottesville in August 2017, who shouted “Jews will not replace us.” On the very evening of the murders in Pittsburgh, after offering a few conciliatory thoughts, he once again launched into a diatribe against a prominent Jew: his neo-conservative critic, Bill Kristol. The neo-Nazi right and most of the crowd likely read meaning into the President’s selection of Kristol as a rhetorical target that evening. Was Trump signaling that, although he was being forced to say a few soft words, his alliance with anti-Semites remains as strong as ever? Anti-Semitism among leading Republicans is not limited to Trump. A week before the shootings, Steve Scalise, Majority Whip of the House of Representatives, tweeted that “George Soros-backed elements” were ”taking over” the Democratic Party, with the result that acts of “violence” were being committed against Republicans. Soros is of Jewish heritage, and Scalise singled out him for this baseless attack rather than other prominent Democratic supporters. Scalise is likely to move up to Majority Leader if the Republicans hold the House in the midterm elections. The dangers of this kind of talk are now manifest. Trump’s attacks against other groups have also been followed by violence. He recently claimed that African-Americans have a “low I.Q.” and called them “dogs.” On Oct. 25, a shooter killed two African-Americans at random in Kentucky, then reportedly assured a bystander that he wasn’t going to shoot anyone who was white. The same week, another angry extremist sent pipe bombs to more than a dozen prominent Democratic politicians and supporters, including George Soros and Tom Steyer, two wealthy Jewish targets of Presidential tweets. Some of bombs were addressed to the care of CNN, frequent and favorite media target of the President. What can you do to push back against this surge in violent hatred? First, speak outwhenever you encounter it. If someone raises a conspiracy charge against a Jewish person – “they’re financing the caravan, they’re paying protesters in the streets; they’re bankrolling attacks on Republicans” – call it out for what it is: anti-Semitism. If someone insults an African- American, call it out as racism. Civility does not require silence in the face of incitement to violence. Next, work to reform our nation’s disgraceful gun laws. There will always be some unbalanced people. They should not have access to guns, and especially not to assault rifles. And finally, a step you can take immediately is to vote Democratic on November 6. While some Republican commentators, especially neoconservatives, have opposed the Republican Party’s outreach to the right-wing fringe, many Republican politicians in addition to Trump, such as Scalise, have enthusiastically embraced it. Republican politicians will not meaningfully reject the anti-Semitism and other types of ethnic hatred promoted by the right-wing fringe unless and until they suffer losses, and large ones, at election time. So, vote. Virginia has identification requirements, but they are not onerous for most people. A driver’s license or passport with your local address will do. Make a plan to vote on November 6. Find out where your polling place is. Then schedule the time to cast your ballot. The polls are open from 6:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and the polls stay open until everyone who was in line at 7:00 p.m. has voted.

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