Dmitry Piterman Discusses How to Address the Rise of Anti-Semitism During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, billions of people around the world are being vigilant so they can avoid contracting and spreading a potentially fatal virus that has contributed to hundreds of thousands of deaths — and will likely lead to millions before a vaccine is widely available and distributed.
However, despite these vital and in many cases heroic efforts help deal with the worst public health crisis in more than a century, an insidious and all-too-familiar scourge has once again arisen and slithered into the spotlight: anti-Semitism.
Dmitry Piterman is a real estate mogul, international entrepreneur, art collector, soccer executive, and professional athlete whose family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York, from Ukraine in 1979 as part of the Jews-for-Grain exchange that Jimmy Carter negotiated with Leonid Brezhnev. He discusses how to address the rise of anti-Semitism during COVID-19.
According to a report published by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, the volume of anti-Semitic hate speech incidents worldwide has spiked since early March 2020. And in the U.S., the FBI in New York has warned that white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have called upon their members to intentionally spread the COVID-19 virus to Jews.
While the term anti-Semitism is a couple of centuries old, violence, hatred, and both explicit and systemic discrimination against Jews in one form or another dates back more than 2,000 years, comments Dmitry Piterman.
As for addressing anti-Semitism and making it a reprehensible and shameful part of history instead of a treacherous and vile aspect of the present and future, education is a fundamental key.
As a global community of civilized nations, we absolutely need to recognize without reservation or qualification that anti-Semitism is wrong and that it is a very real and ever-present security issue for the Jewish people and Israel, says Dmitry Piterman. But we must go further than a clear and total condemnation of these hateful and criminal acts. We must also follow the advice put forth by the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly and develop worldwide education programs that address anti-Semitism in the framework of global citizenship. In this context, anti-Semitism does not just target and threaten Jews and Israelis. It is an affront and a menace to all people who believe in protecting, asserting, and defending the dignity and fundamental inalienable rights of all human beings.
Educators at all levels urgently need training and resources to respond to anti-Semitism in their respective environments, as well as help students — and sometimes parents and other family members as well — understand the difference between factual and fictional narratives.
Responding to Anti-Semitism
Long before anyone heard of COVID-19, anti-Semitic hate speech and violence was and remains an increasing problem in schools and colleges around the world. Because many of these events don’t involve severe physical violence requiring the intervention of police or doctors, they are not dealt with in a serious or meaningful way by teachers or school officials. This enabling behavior emboldens perpetrators and their networks at home and in the community who come to believe that anti-Semitic attitudes and actions are at best encouraged and at worst tolerated. To break the cycle, we need to give teachers and school officials the tools and support they need to intervene and, if necessary, remove perpetrators from the school environment. Teaching children geometry and science and literature are vital. But so is developing their character, so that when they go out into the world as adults they respect and uphold the dignity of others instead of rely on false beliefs to harm and hurt them.
With this in mind, absolutely nobody suggests that addressing anti-Semitism is an easy task. On the contrary, it is widely understood to be an enormous challenge that will frankly require never-ending effort.
The roots of anti-Semitism go back for more than two millennia, and there is no way we can expect to wipe it out in a matter of years or even decades, comments Dmitry Piterman. Unlike COVID-19, there is no possible vaccine to cure this disease. But the daunting nature of the task ahead must not cause us to despair. We need to stay vigilant, support education programs, and call out anti-Semitism wherever and whenever we see it; not just to expose culprits, but to encourage productive and progressive dialogue among people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.
Final Thoughts from Dmitry Piterman
“I will admit that there are times when dealing with anti-Semitism can be truly exhaustive and beyond frustrating,” says Dmitry Piterman. “But when I feel like nothing is going to change, I am reminded of the indescribable dignity, courage and sacrifice of those who have fought — and in many cases died — to defeat anti-Semitism and all of the hate-filled groups that depend on it for their mandate and cohesion. When we push back against anti-Semitism, sometimes in bigger ways and other times in smaller ways, we honor those who have come before us, and shine the light brighter for those who will come after us.”
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors or management of EconoTimes