As a child of the 1990s, I rarely experienced anti-Semitism personally. I remember a few incidents where people driving by would yell anti-Semitic slurs at me and my friends as we walked to synagogue on Shabbat. I remember once discovering a swastika spray painted on the front door of my synagogue one day after services. But I quickly alerted the rabbi, and it was cleaned off immediately. Nobody made a fuss about it and the rabbi never mentioned it again.
Things seem to have changed recently. Now when I go to synagogue, I say good morning to the security guard who stands by the door. On the High Holy Days, I pass a police car in front of the synagogue on my way to the Kol Nidrei service.
As an intern for the Forward, the paper I read every week as a child, it is surreal that so much of my job seems to revolve around documenting incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States.
As a kid, I grew up reading the Forward every Shabbat afternoon. In the old version of the print paper, there was a section that highlighted bits of news from past issues going back 50, 75 and 100 years. Throughout my childhood, I would read the news from Europe in the 1930s in the “75 years ago” section. I read about the rise of Hitler, the development of the Nuremberg laws and the invasion of Poland by Germany.
As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, the narrative of the Holocaust has always been a part of my family’s story. My grandmother was particularly vocal for a survivor, having written a memoir about her experiences and regularly giving speeches about the Shoah at Jewish day schools and synagogues. My other grandmother fled Germany shortly after Kristallnacht when her home, next door to the synagogue, was burnt down.
Jewish Community Centers, like the one at which I went to nursery school and camp, are being threatened almost daily with bomb threats. Swastikas are popping up all over the country with no explanation. While I’m wary of joining those sounding the alarm of another imminent Holocaust, I’m disturbed by the newfound sense of personal connection I feel to those news blurbs from 75 years ago. What kind of story are we a part of now?
I flip through old issues of the Forward, looking for clues. And I keep scrolling Twitter and Facebook, always on the lookout for the next bomb threat, the next swastika.
Shira Hanau is the Forward’s news intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org