Opinion: We must be vigilant | Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle

Opinion: We must be vigilant


The results of the elections were profound for everyone, no matter what your propensity. And as much as I join the country in hoping that we will have a smooth transition of leadership this January, there are things I cannot forget. I feel that my Jewish values inform me on virtually everything. And I believe that almost all issues have an aspect of fundamental fairness. My politics are well known, I view the world through a Jewish lens.

I cannot forget, condone or ignore the level of anti-Semitism that was unleashed by our incoming chief strategist and soon-to-be president. The sieg heils at rallies, the calls to go to Auschwitz, the tweets and television commercials about the international banking conspiracies, the constant reminders that well-known Jewish names were funding Secretary Clinton’s campaign, and mocking and threatening well-known Jewish journalists who were criticizing Mr. Trump. These and many other examples are inexcusable. Unforgivable. And any of us who remain quiet when such outrageous anti-Semitic efforts are made, is condoning it.

I cannot forget, condone or ignore the level of racism, sexism, misogyny, Islamophobia and other forms of blatant bigotry that have been unleashed during this horrid and ugly campaign. I cannot forget the call to round up Mexicans for deportation, the call to prohibit Muslims from entering the country, the bragging about sexual assaults, the mimicking people with disabilities, the belief that judges cannot be fair and just if they have Mexican heritage, the name calling of women who do not fit into a single notion of what is attractive, and the list goes on.

I cannot forget, condone or ignore the constant bullying of people who disagree with the president-elect. From restricting what media can cover him, to calling for new libel laws to stop media from criticizing him. From tweeting insults about individuals, to re-tweeting cartoons of Jews being in concentration camps with his finger on the button to the gas chambers. From accusing people of crimes with no proof, to lying about connections with Russia and the alt-right. From leading cheers at rallies calling for his opponent to be locked up, to threatening lawsuits and violence against anyone who stands up to him.

I cannot forget, condone or ignore how each candidate he vanquished during the primary and the general elections he did so by calling them horrible names, mocked, belittled and dismissed people who have dedicated their lives to public service, from Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush to Hillary Clinton and her staff.

I cannot forget, condone or ignore the praise for authoritarianism. Especially having just returned from a community study mission to Lithuania and Germany. It starts with name calling, encouraging mass rallies with frightening chants, and dehumanizing and stereotyping a select group of people. It starts with restrictions and takeover of media. It continues with punishing opponents, and demanding loyalty to dangerous ideology.

As a Jew, as a woman, as a mother and grandmother, I cannot sit quietly. Zebras do not change their stripes. What has been said has to be continually confronted and condemned. It will likely continue. The hatred has to stop, but it will take a communal effort to make that happen. It is not likely to come from those in power – who rose to power spewing hatred.

I take my responsibility to speak out very seriously. There will be people who disagree of course – but I hope it is done with civility – another lost value in this campaign. Wearing all my identity hats, I will condemn any statements of hatred. I will help to build coalitions, urge a respect for public service, and will role model to my kids and their generation that we must believe people when they say they are going to do something bad, and we don’t stand idly by.

Hannah Rosenthal is chief executive officer and president of Milwaukee Jewish Federation.