Wrestling with anti-Semitism
Some thoughts on Dave Chappelle and Tom Stoppard
Prior to 2016 I could count on one hand the number of times I personally encountered anti-Semitism. Some of those encounters were serious: I remember as a teenager being a voluntary guard for my synagogue because of bomb threats. Still, most of the anti-Semitism I faced came from ignorance rather than malice. When I was in high school, for example, one classmate asked me if Jews celebrated Thanksgiving. On the whole, however, I felt very safe and secure in my corners of America.
That changed a little when Trump started running for office. I was on the receiving end of a lot of anti-Semitic tweets as the 2016 campaign unfolded. Trump’s casual anti-Semitism was more consequential emanating from the bully pulpit, as was his praise of the alt-right protestors in Charlottesville. Then the Tree of Life shooting led my synagogue to hire armed security guards. In this season of Jewish space lasers, Ye’s pledge to “go death con 3” on Jewish people, and whatever Kyrie Irving is going on about, let’s just say my sensitivity to the phenomenon has been elevated. It is unsurprising the Washington Post reported last month that, “recent data already showed that a majority of American Jews fear violence against them.”
It was in that mindset that last weekend I watched two artistic commentaries on this topic. The first was Dave Chappelle’s Saturday Night Live monologue. The second was the Broadway production of Tom Stoppard’s Leopoldstadt. Their combined effect has left me unnerved.
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