Preventing anti-Semitism deserves more than a hashtag

Action is critical for progress to be made

Actions speak louder than words when denouncing anti-Semitism, according to Pike
Actions speak louder than words when denouncing anti-Semitism, according to Pike.

Denouncing anti-Semitism must go beyond a hashtag to make real change.

Within hours of the Oct. 27 shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, my social media channels were flooded with the hashtag #TogetherAgainstAntisemitism, which was prominently trending on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. I’m incredibly proud to be Jewish—yet I couldn’t bring myself to use it.

I’ve attended Jewish school and camp, was a Diller Teen Fellow, participated in the March of the Living, and regularly attend Chabad and Hillel events on campus. Judaism is an integral aspect of my identity.

I instinctively felt I should update my profile picture with the #TogetherAgainstAntisemitism hashtag to unite my Jewish and non-Jewish friends together in awareness and solidarity.

However, the more I thought about the hashtag and its purpose and place in fighting anti-Semitism, the more opposed I was to using it.

Although the hashtag was created in good faith, if someone feels passionate enough to show their friends on social media they’re against anti-Semitism, they can do more to inspire more change than sharing a simple hashtag.

Hashtags create awareness, not action—which is what the fight against anti-Semitism requires. 

Swift online response to mass shootings and other attacks isn’t new. I vividly remember similar social media reactions after the attacks in Paris and Charleston, among others. But what needs to be understood is the Pittsburgh shooting was an act of religious discrimination.

The only way to make constructive and progressive change against anti-Semitism isn’t through social media or a hashtag. It’s through prioritizing education, and ensuring the smallest tendencies of discriminatory behaviours are prevented from the outset.

If you’re unsure about what constitutes anti-Semitic language and behaviour, educate yourself on what might be more appropriate. Don’t be afraid to ask your Jewish peers some questions or even Google the correct response.

If you’re witness to or experience any blatant anti-Semitic behaviour, report it and stand up for what’s right. It can be frightening to push back against hate, but it’s how we can address the root causes of the Pittsburg shooting.

And when the opportunity to vote surfaces, consciously avoid electing politicians who hold anti-Semitic beliefs.

Faith Goldy—a former Rebel Media reporter who’s been described as a white supremacist—finished in third place and with 3.4 percent of the popular vote in Toronto’s recent mayoral election. She received 25,667 votes in one of the country’s most diverse cities, but that number should’ve been zero. 

Let us not forget the events of the Holocaust 73 years ago. Holocaust denial exists and its prevalence only serves to increase the likelihood of future tragedies.  

Take Jewish studies courses like “Jewish and World Civilization” or “The Holocaust,” offered through the history department at Queen’s, which highlight the plight of Jews in world history. Read a book on the Holocaust like Hana’s Suitcase or The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Take any simple form of action to understand the scope of longstanding, unjustified hate—and, more importantly, understand how it contributes to current events like the shooting in Pittsburgh.

Hopefully taking action will allow you to ask, “What can I do in my day-to-day life that might actually make a difference?”

Rather than simply following a trend of raising awareness, delve into the understanding of why that awareness is important.

A hashtag won’t make a difference and neither will changing your profile photo. Real change happens when we put critical thought into our actions. Whether it be through education, advocacy or opposing those who display anti-Semitic beliefs, any form of tangible action goes beyond the virtual trend of a hashtag.

At the very least, it’s a step in the right direction.

Jordan is second year Film major with a certificate in business.

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