The name Semite comes from Shem, the eldest of the three sons of Noah. Semitic people or Semitic cultures is a term for an ethnic, cultural or racial group who speak or spoke the Semitic languages. The terms “anti-Semite” or “antisemitism” refers more narrowly to anyone who was hostile or discriminatory towards Jews in particular. Antisemitism is one of the most malicious forms of racism in human history. Sometimes crudely referred to as ‘Jew-hating’, anti-Semitism is an abject fear or hatred of the Jewish people. The term anti-Semitism was coined in 1879 by the German agitator Wilhelm Marr to designate the anti-Jewish campaigns under way in central Europe at that time. Although the term now has wide currency, it is a misnomer, since it implies a discrimination against all Semites. Arabs and other peoples are also Semites, and yet they are not the targets of antisemitism as it is usually understood. Nazi anti-Semitism, which culminated in the Holocaust, had a racist dimension in that it targeted Jews because of their supposed biological characteristics — even those who had themselves converted to other religions or whose parents were converts.
Post-election has brought about an increase in anti-Semitism. The Holocaust was a world-historic epiphany, but not to the Trump Administration, which last month erased the Holocaust’s most salient feature by deliberately omitting any reference to Jews from the White House’s official statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. There is no question that American Jews are worried about the uptick in hate crimes after Trump took office. In addition to the online intimidation, reports of anti-Semitic vandalism and other attacks have risen. Swastika signs have been painted on stores and there has been a wave of vandalism in cemeteries.
A New York hate crime task force is investigating the toppling of at least a dozen headstones at a Jewish cemetery after similar incidents occurred in St. Louis and Philadelphia. The Anti Defamation League (www.adl.org) officials said donations to their organization increased 50-fold in the days immediately after the election and a large majority of the money came from first-time donors. Every one of their regional offices reported an uptick in calls from people wanting to donate or volunteer, the ADL said. ADL conducts large-scale research on hate groups, including the alt-right. ADL has partnered with law enforcement to better deal with hate crimes and enhance public awareness of hate and bigotry, among other campaigns.