Anti-Semitism Isn’t Funny

by Lexi Kupor

Media Production Editor

As a kid, my parents would comfort me during times of fear with a solace you’ve probably heard before: “Those kinds of things don’t happen here. We’re safe.” Unfortunately, the majority of our school and community has adopted a Silicon Valley-induced ‘us versus them’ mentality, which is the basis for ignorance and the habit of relieving guilt with a reassurance of our false superiority and purity.

Several weeks ago, news spread of a few ‘reckless, immature teenagers’ who arranged their red solo cups into a swastika at a ‘harmless’ high school party in Southern California. The news of this threat died down several days later, as did the repetitive, impersonal displays of ostensible sympathy that most of our community’s residents conjure up in the face of hatred. Disappointed and fearful, I thought to myself, ‘this could’ve so easily been a party in my town.’

Alas, it’s time for our community to reveal itself from the protection of its half-hearted justifications. These teenagers are neither reckless nor immature; they knew their intentions, and they meant them. This act is not harmless. These kinds of things do happen here. We are not safe.

Immediately after hearing the news of this event, I shared a powerful response by a user I did not know to my social media platform, hopeful that I could at least inform and empower those around me to speak up against the disgusting act we had witnessed. Nevertheless, I came into class the next day to receive joking remarks at the fact that I had shared the post on my accounts, in addition to realizing that hardly anyone had taken the time to read the actual text.

This is what it’s like to be a Jew in Los Gatos.

Before I left for a summer camp through my Jewish youth group last July, my friends joked about me heading off to a ‘concentration camp.’ On a group chat, I witnessed a peer send emojis as he looked for a flag that most closely resembled that of Nazi Germany. No one saw anything wrong with that.

This is what it’s like to be a Jew in Los Gatos.

Peers in my history class make fun of Jewish pogroms and anti-Semitic laws and figures from the past. Kids around me joke about yarmulkes and Hebrew phrases, playfully adopting them into their own vocabulary to add to the degradation. A teacher holds up a student’s drawing to the class and encourages us to laugh at what looks like a swastika.

This is what it’s like to be a Jew in Los Gatos.

When we were still in middle school and studying The Diary of Anne Frank, a friend asked me if I felt personally affected by the Holocaust. I brushed off the question, unsure of how to answer something so complex. I would like to change my response.

Yes – I feel personally affected by a period of time that killed millions of Jews for trivial, nonexistent reasons. To the teens at the party in Southern California, yes, I feel personally affected by your use of a symbol that continues to stand for the justification and promotion of my oppression. To the Los Gatos community, yes, I feel personally affected by your ‘playful’ employment of actions and words that reflect on a time when my existence was not accepted.

As a Jew in Los Gatos, I feel as though I am excluded from a joke that everyone else is a part of. When you laugh at my identity, the unjustifiable murder of millions, and the people who orchestrated it, I feel utterly confused as to where in those factors something so funny can be found.

We live in a town with one of the lowest crime rates and highest salaries in the nation, yet this does not protect us from hatred and hostility on all fronts. Neither do our good schools, our big houses, or our paved roads. It’s time to change the way we act. Out of sight does not mean out of mind, and if we don’t pay heed to the insidious, strengthening hostility around us, we’ll soon be suffocated by it.

Categories: Opinion

3 replies »

  1. Thank you for writing this powerful (and disturbing) article. I am so sorry that you’ve had to experience this type of discrimination and hate.

    My family is not Jewish but we chose to send our children to a Muslum daycare and Jewish preschool in hopes that they would connect with people of different religions at a young age. One of our family goals was that our children would start their lives knowing and loving people of different faiths.

    This is one of my favorite videos demonstrating that goal of religious tolerance: https://www.thewaytohappiness.org/thewaytohappiness/precepts/respect-the-religious-beliefs-of-others.html

    If we could all respect the religious beliefs of others, the world would be a much better place.

    Thank you for taking the time to articulate this problem so clearly and powerfully.

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