Antisemitism Today: A Page Out of an Age-Old Playbook
Posted on 05/06/2022 @ 08:00 AM
If you’ve never heard Dr. Robert Watson speak, you are missing something! Every time he’s spoken on behalf of CAJE and the Department of Adult Learning & Growth, he gets RAVE reviews.
“I’ve listened to a lot of rabbis, teachers and professors over the course of my career. Professor Watson is absolutely enthralling and one of the best speakers I’ve ever heard!”
-Rabbi Efrat Zarren-Zohar, Executive Director of CAJE
Already there are over 100 people registered because they know how good of a speaker he is!
Dr. Robert Watson holds the titles Distinguished Professor of American History and Avron Fogelman Research Professor a professor at Lynn University in Boca Raton. He is an award-winning author, professor, historian, and analyst for numerous media outlets and has published over forty books on history and politics, five works of fiction, and hundreds of scholarly journal articles, book chapters, and reference essays.
Dr. Watson, a non-Jew, will offer his perspective on the rise of antisemitism today and the long history of hate that has followed the Jewish people throughout the ages. He will address the rise of micro-aggressions on college campuses and will include resources for how to engage in dialogue with others (including children and grandchildren) about the rise of antisemitism and ways to combat the vitriol and hatred.
Rabbi Laila Haas, CAJE’s Director of Adult Learning and Growth, sat down for an interview with Dr. Watson to discuss the upcoming program.
Rabbi Haas: As an historian, do you see today’s antisemitism as “history repeating itself” or is something different?
Dr. Watson: I would say, all of the above. We tend to use the word resurgence to describe today’s antisemitism, but I'm not sure resurgence is the correct word. It implies that antisemitism went away for a period of time. It never went away. What is different today are mass media and social media.
Thirty years ago, some white supremacist, anti-semite living in rural Idaho was just wearing camouflage and stockpiling non-perishables. But today that same guy can go online, create and post-free content, which is universally accessible, start a meetup and gain thousands of followers. Now that same guy has been given a platform; his voice has been amplified and his beliefs are shared with thousands of others around the world.
So, in a way, history is repeating itself, but we're now living in an interconnected much smaller world. The power of social media is vastly beyond that of the wheel, the printing press, or the internal combustion engine! It is an unprecedentedly powerful tool that can be used for good but unfortunately, it also spreads vitriol, misinformation, and hatred at such a rapid speed that it can lead to devastating consequences.
Rabbi Haas: “Antisemitism Today: A Page Out of An Age-Old Playbook”. Why this topic? Why now?
Dr. Watson: We live in a world where there are alternative truths and where facts are what you want them to be. We need to be armed with the facts. Even though I might be preaching to the converted, we still need to listen, engage in the conversation, and internalize the current reality that we are facing. Information is power. It’s important to know and understand the historical lineage of this deep rooted antisemitism. On May 11th I will present the history of antisemitism and the strong historical connection to the rise in antisemitism today.
Rabbi Haas: As a university professor, can you speak to the rise of antisemitic micro-aggressions on college campuses?
Dr. Watson: Last week, the Anti-Defamation League reported that the number of assaults, vandalism and harassment targeting Jewish communities and individuals in the United States hit the highest number on record in 2021. In addition, other groups, such as the Southern Poverty Law Center, that monitor hate crimes have documented an alarming spike over the past five years. The trajectory is going up.
What concerns me is that education has become the frontline in the battlefield over this issue today. Instances of hateful rhetoric and antisemitic propaganda are on display in classrooms and within university settings around the country.
I am going to spend time addressing what's happening on college campuses and will address the importance of teaching our children, early on, about these groups and how to push back when presented with alternative facts.
We want our children and grandchildren to feel empowered and to know what is fact and what is fake. We want them to feel confident and strengthened by the information. We will discuss how to have these powerful conversations and I will provide specific examples of what to do when confronted with antisemitism on campus.
Rabbi Haas: On the night of your presentation what do you want us to hear and what do we need to internalize?
Dr. Watson: Even if we're informed and consider ourselves educated, we need to dig deeper, understand more fully the depth and breadth of the words, sentiments and beliefs of antisemitic hate groups. The manifestos and beliefs of groups like Q-Anon, the Proud Boys, the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists harken back to the same nonsense and vitriol that has been directed toward the Jewish community for over 2000 years.
For example, one might not know that some of these hate groups today are evoking Martin Luther. Martin Luther, in addition to being the father of Protestantism, was also a rabid antisemite. In 1545, he wrote the book, “The Jews and Their Lies.” He accused the Jewish community of anything and everything and stated that Jews have no souls. In other words, there's no salvation for them, making any action against the Jews, from Luther’s perspective, warranted.
Information is power. I am grateful to CAJE Adult Learning and the Lynn and David Russin Family Foundation for providing the space and opportunity for the community to come together to learn and share information. It’s programs like this that arm us with truth so we can fight against the misinformation that breeds hatred and violence.
Rabbi Haas: Thank you Dr. Robert Watson! We look forward to your virtual presentation!
A PAGE OUT OF AN AGE-OLD PLAYBOOK
Scholar & Historian Dr. Robert Watson
Wednesday, May 11 | 7 PM (EDT)
This program is FREE and open to the community and will take place virtually.
Registration is required to receive the ZOOM link.