Panel focuses on hate crimes against Jews

The panel discussion took place at the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Photo by Devon Watson

Dan Leshem, accompanied by a group of liberals and conservatives, visited the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church on Friday to discuss antisemitism.
Leshem, a Jewish professor and native of Los Angeles, has worked at different universities in the United States while studying the Holocaust for more than 20 years. He is now the executive director for Hillel at Florida State University.

Hillel is higher education international organization started in 1923. It provides opportunities for Jewish students who attend FAMU, FSU and TCC. Every summer Leshem picks five Jewish and 20 non-Jewish students to travel with Hillel to Israel.

Over the last three years anti-Semitic hate crimes have increased noticeably. According to the Anti-Defamation League, in 2018 the U.S had 1,879 attacks on people of Jewish religion, the most recorded since 1970s.

President Trump has been linked to this spike in hate crimes against Jews in the United States. During a Twitter battle with Hillary Clinton, Trump posted a picture of Clinton with the Jewish Star of David along with $100 bills and the words “most corrupt candidate ever.” The tweet subliminally indicated that Clinton is part of the conspiracy that Jews control political systems.

Leshem believes that 70 percent of crimes on Jews are hate crimes. He says that as a child it is systematically rooted into the mind of U.S. citizens and passed down for generations to dislike Jews.

“While working at a university some deans would make some of the students prove they were Jewish before being excused for Jewish holidays,” Leshem said.

There are cultural identifications that perceive Jews to not be Christian.

On April 27, 2019, on Shabbat, the last day of the Jewish Passover holiday, a high-profile hate crime was committed when 19-year-old John Timothy Earnest went inside of the Chabad of Poway Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was filled with more than 80 people and he started firing a Smith & Wesson Model M&P 15 Sport semiautomatic rifle, killing one woman and injuring three others. Earnest was apprehended two miles from the shooting by a police officer.

Earl Borrow, who said he identifies as a Christian Jew, asked the panelists what can we do as a society to overcome all of the hatred and negativity focused on Jewish people.

During a survey, 45 percent of Jews said that they avoid going to certain places with their families because they were afraid of being singled out and attacked.

“Being in a room like this, coming together as one to uplift and protect one another, is a start and it is significantly important we continue to do,” Betsy Ouellette Zierden, a panelist and member of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, said.