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Leo Frank and Anti-Semitism in the U.S.

March 5, 2014

Letters to the Editor
St. Louis Jewish Light

To the Editor:

In his Feb. 26 commentary (“A ‘Frank’ look at American anti-Semitism”), David Benkof questions “why so many American Jews felt besieged” by anti-Semitism when it appeared the exception rather than the rule. 

Rather than exaggerate issues of anti-Semitism, ADL has instead reported a downward trend. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2012 was down by 14 percent.  That includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to our offices from 35 states and the District of Columbia — not a perfect picture but a broad sense of cases involving assaults, vandalism and harassment, 927 reports in all.   

For those 927 families represented in the audit because of anti-Semitism at work, at school and in their neighborhoods, they have every right to feel besieged. Yet there persists the nuanced situations. 

Hardcore anti-Semitism is not at issue, but more subtle conduct — that comment or attitude, the one that leaves you with an awful feeling in the pit of your stomach — the feeling that there’s difficult bias at play that highlights your being Jewish around observance of Jewish holidays, approach to Kosher food, opinions about Israel, etc.

So the hardcore anti-Semitism reflected in the lynching of Leo Frank is in fact terrible history, but that history is important to our advocacy. ADL works to reduce bias, increase acceptance and respect of Jews and all people in the US continues daily.  We help people, for instance, who are struggling with anti-Jewish bias at work, or students confronting a lack of awareness of Jewish holidays in a school calendar.

Through our Confronting Anti-Semitism training, our Echoes & Reflections resources on the Holocaust for educators, through custom-designed prejudice reduction programs for schools, community groups, campuses, police departments and workplaces — last year in this region alone — Eastern Kansas, Missouri and Southern Illinois, ADL engaged more than 3,500 people to understand how bias, bigotry and anti-Semitism hurts, even when there isn’t physical evidence of the pain it causes.

Don’t question why that besieged feeling continues to exist for Jews and every minority group in America; become an ally in fighting for the acceptance that will make that feeling go away.  If one of us is a target, we are all targets.  

Sincerely,

Karen J. Aroesty  
Missouri/Southern Illinois Regional Director

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