By Allison Siegelman
The recently released book authored by Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, It Could Happen Here: Why America Is Tipping From Hate To the Unthinkable and How We Can Stop It came to my attention as a result of research I am conducting to complete my graduate thesis which will focus on our nation’s public policies that address hate crime and violations of human rights.
I saw the book advertised and I immediately purchased it and read it in a couple of days. It inspired me to create a private Facebook page dedicated to discussion about the book and how to form collaborations and cooperatives which focus on dispelling prejudice of all types, including anti-Semitism. I built membership to the page by reaching out to people who I know personally, and I also asked those people to invite others who they feel would be interested in belonging. To date, I have held one book discussion event. The group had discussion about the intense issues and cases that Greenblatt raises in the book.
This book is vital reading in my opinion. Greenblatt alerts the public to the rapid increase in hate crime activity and harassment in this country, and around the world. The Jewish population are not the only victims, as the increase has targeted other minority groups such as Asians, people of color, and those identifying as LGBTQ.
We, as Jews, are especially aware of the horrifying attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh (the worst attack on Jews in American history), and this year’s hostage situation at Beth Israel Synagogue in Colleyville, Texas. Moreover, we have seen more public displays of organized anti-Semitism in the past few years, including the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, VA in August 2017 and the slogans and rhetoric which accompanied the attack on the US Capitol in January 2021.
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) states the following: “Many Americans have seen antisemitism over the past year (2021). Four in ten Americans (41%) have witnessed at least one antisemitic incident and three in ten (31%) have witnessed more than one.” The book goes into detail on why we cannot sit by and be indifferent or silent. We must organize and coordinate action that includes interacting with our school districts, local, state, and federal legislators and business leaders to demand that public policies teach tolerance, and crack down on violators of human rights and perpetrators of hate crimes.
I urge you to read the book and to get involved as a member of our Central Pennsylvania Jewish Community. Visit the ADL’s website at www.adl.org and pay particular attention to their graphic called The Pyramid of Hate. The graphic depicts how societies gravitate towards carrying out genocide, which is at the top of the pyramid. Greenblatt says that the United States is right now, in 2022, at the level just below that top level. It is crucial that we all organize and act now to reverse the trend so that we do not fall into “the unthinkable” and be true to the words “never again” for the sake of all humanity.