Are we exaggerating racism? No, you are perpetuating it.

Paul Tesser

By Paul Tesser

I found the column written by Professor J. Martin Rochester, “Are we exaggerating racism?” (Oct 30. edition of the St. Louis Jewish Light), to be deeply disturbing. I am of the opinion that the persistence of systemic racism in America remains a leading problem. The very nature of the racist tone of his article only serves to provide evidence that not only is racism not exaggerated, it continues to be perpetuated. 

But rather than go toe-to-toe to refute each point offered by Professor Rochester, I will suggest the following thought experiment. I will use similar modes of reasoning and phrasing, as he has used to claim we are exaggerating racism, and apply them to anti-Semitism: 

Did you know that there have been reports that anti-Semitism in America is on the rise? It appears that the bar for being called an anti-Semite has been lowered to such a point that anyone who espouses anti-Semitic ideology or commits acts of anti-Semitism is considered to be an anti-Semite. I feel this is baloney, and that we have grossly exaggerated anti-Semitism.

One can understand the term anti-Semitism, given the history of violence against Jews, but it appears this term is now used ad nauseam. Afterall, it has been 80 years since there has been anything resembling large-scale genocide against the Jewish people. 

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Academic and media elites have amplified the rhetoric to such a level that it displays gross ignorance. For example, terms like Neo-Nazis have become synonymous with Nazis. Neo-Nazis, to the best of my knowledge, have not constructed gas chambers as did the Nazis of the Third Reich. Also ignored is the fact that most Americans are not neo-Nazis. 

Does not the elimination of admission quotas for higher education, which now gives Jews an unfair advantage, all but prove that anti-Semitism is no longer the problem it once was. Also cavalierly overlooked is the fact that the President’s daughter and son-in-law are Jewish. 

Another point is worth mentioning. The media is quick to report each incident that can be used to imply rampant anti-Semitism, however rare and isolated that such incidents may be, such as the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Some would suggest that it is a synagogue’s lack of security and location, and not anti-Semitism, that determines such attacks. 

Perhaps there is no sillier analysis than the argument that, despite the Jews being small in number, they have had an outsized influence on the world. According to some reports, only 70 Hebrews entered Egypt 3000 years ago, leading to a period of bondage. Are we to believe that from this enslavement, a group of people emerged that could possibly make all the alleged contributions that have been attributed to them? And by extension, are we to accept that anti-Semitism continues to exist despite all these alleged contributions?

So now we are led to believe that the introduction of Jewish monotheism is a defining moment in world history, and Jews are major contributors to the world’s faiths and cultures. Clearly, a wild distortion.

And finally, the attempt to educate students about the Jewish experience has ensured that we have anti-Semitism on the brain. Many people now include Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, and Louis Brandeis, for example, in the pantheon of great Americans. If such education continues, some may come to learn that Bob Dylan is also a Jew.

But seriously, I have said nothing here to suggest that anti-Semitism does not exist and does not remain a concern. However, any continued acknowledgement of, dialogue about, and battling against anti-Semitism that does not conform to the appropriate agenda does little to help the problem. 

So, to complete the thought experiment, what would the reaction be if my “opinion” piece were to appear in a prominent paper in the Black community? 

Professor Rochester is entitled to have his article published. But it is tragic that such an article, which has nothing to do with Judaism, has appeared in our leading periodical. The St. Louis Jewish community should strongly reject it for the racist diatribe that it is.