By Gabby Cushman
Diving into 4 misconceptions about Jewish people fueled by antisemitic beliefs
When confronted with baseless conspiracy theories, either on social media or shared in real life, what is typically your first reaction? I tend to roll my eyes or make fun of it to my peers, who are also well aware of how ridiculous these claims can be. It’s easy to feel justified in my dismissive reaction because it often seems like only a tiny group of extremists stand behind these beliefs, creating an echo chamber amongst themselves. However, this isn’t exactly the case. Many impressionable people, children and adults alike, fall down these conspiracy theory rabbit holes due to their lack of knowledge on a particular topic or group of people. We can’t just dismiss conspiracy theories as if they don’t cause any actual harm.
Jewish people are often on the receiving end of these hateful stereotypes and conspiracies. Many blame this community for societal problems based on antisemitic ideas throughout history. We’ve seen these stereotypes echoed by well-known celebrities and politicians with massive platforms and a highly impressionable fanbase. Fighting antisemitism and fighting these theories go hand-in-hand. With our monthly theme focusing on antisemitism, we want to break down common misconceptions about the Jewish community to help you and your little ones respond to antisemitic stereotypes when you encounter them.
Misconception #1: Jewish people are greedy and money-hungry.
Truth: This stereotype was established due to Jewish people's persecution during our early history. Jewish people were often not permitted to own land, and moneylending was one of the only professions available to them. Antisemites used these effects of oppression to paint Jewish people as greedy or wanting control over finances. The reality is that early Jewish workers had limited employment options due to discrimination.
Misconception #2: Jewish people are rich and influential, with control over the media and politics.
Truth: This hateful idea can stem from the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a book that claimed that Jewish people controlled the world and were to blame for the world’s problems. Famous Jewish individuals or families who had influence in certain areas, such as the Rothschild family well known in the banking world, were accused of “pulling the strings” of world leaders due to ideas pushed by this book. It’s still used today to back myths and conspiracy theories spread by antisemites, becoming even more widespread through the internet. In actuality, most of the world’s wealthy are non-Jewish.
Misconception #3: Antisemitism is only tied to Nazis and white supremacists.
Truth: Antisemitism appears in many forms, and these hate groups are on the extreme end of this spectrum. Did you know that for most of the 20th century, it was entirely legal to turn down housing and employment applications from Jewish people in the United States? Or that in the 50s and 60s, many universities openly did not accept applications from students of Jewish origin? And if they did admit Jewish students, it was limited to a minimal number? In recent years, laws have been passed to make this discrimination illegal, but that doesn’t eliminate it completely. In 2019, the FBI reported that 60% of all religious-based hate crimes in the United States targeted the Jewish community. I remember being a university student in 2019 when our Jewish student center was vandalized with hate symbols. And when I went to Google this event, I found reports of even more instances of antisemitism that happened at this same university since I graduated in the summer of 2021. Antisemitism continues to be perpetuated today, not just by the alt-right or specific hate groups.
Misconception #4: Jewish people are white and, therefore, can’t be discriminated against.
Truth: We’ve already gone over numerous examples of Jewish people being discriminated against in the past and present. On top of that, Jewish people were never considered European or white. Throughout history, Jewish people have originated from the Middle East, Southwest Asia, and North Africa. There are Black Jews and Jews of color whose experiences are often dismissed to maintain an antisemitic argument. The Jewish community is a religious and ethnic group that is incredibly diverse. Individuals may identify with being Jewish as their religion, culture, ethnicity, or a combination of the three. To diminish all of these experiences and beliefs to push the idea that all Jewish people are white is just a complete lack of understanding of this vast community.
These are just four common stereotypes of the Jewish community, and sadly they aren’t the only ones. Now that you are more aware of what influenced these misconceptions and the truth behind them, you and your little ones can fight common antisemitic arguments you encounter. For more information about antisemitism, its history, and its existence in today's society, grab our limited stock antisemitism learning kit!
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