Attention Westfield: We have an antisemitism problem

Another day, another swastika in Westfield. This time it was found on Nov. 11 in Tamaques Park on trail markers. I would hope this act of hate was an isolated incident or a one-time thing. It, unfortunately, is not.

Westfield Police Chief Christopher Battiloro said in a recent TAPinto article, “Clearly our community has some work to do with acceptance of others, but I don’t see this as a widespread problem.” 

My apologies to Battiloro, but nine bias incidents reported in 2019 in Westfield (not to mention countless unreported bias incidents) and 994 bias incidents in New Jersey, approximately 2.7 incidents per day, would prove otherwise. Out of those 994 incidents, 345 were anti-Jewish, the largest by over 300 acts against a religious group. According to the 2019 FBI hate crime statistics, last year in the United States there were more hate crimes against Jewish people than every other religious group combined. Yet, Jewish people only make up two percent of the U.S. population.

I am not saying that every person from Westfield or New Jersey has malice and hate in their heart. However, there have been too many times where I have been sitting at the dinner table, and my parents bring up yet another act of antisemitism in Westfield or New Jersey. Besides the perpetrators themselves, someone else must be held responsible for allowing these despicable acts to go unpunished.

It has not been confirmed whether a student or an adult drew the swastika in Tamaques park, nor whether they were from Westfield. Nevertheless, antisemitic acts have been committed by Westfield students before, and to my knowledge, the Board of Education and the Westfield school administration have not taken enough action. I know that the administration is trying to address hate in our community, going as far as to create a new class titled “Power, Privilege, and Imbalance in American Society.” That is amazing, except for the fact that according to the course’s description and curriculum, it does not address hate against Jewish people. Of course, it is important to teach about other types of hate such as racism, but a class that focuses on hate in our society should at least address antisemitism and the 345 bias incidents in New Jersey last year. 

Jessica Isser, another member of Hi’s Eye, wrote a great article a few months ago in the Westfield Leader regarding the importance of Holocaust education in high school. History is an important subject in which to learn the mistakes of the past in order to not repeat them in the future. However, learning in school can only go so far, and parents must be responsible for teaching their children not to hate as well. Case in point: in elementary school, I heard one kid call another kid a “Jewish turd.” And honestly, I do not blame this kid; I blame the parents. Hatred is taught, as there is no way an elementary schooler could have learned the phrase “Jewish turd” so young. Antisemitism, just like any hate, is many times born at home.

Any form of hatred boils down to one thing: education. If children are taught to hate Jewish people at home and are not untaught at school, the cycle of hate will never be broken. It is everyone’s responsibility to combat hatred, no matter what form it takes. Because, as history has taught us all too recently, we know what happens when antisemitism is accepted and widespread in society.