Seeds of Pittsburgh sown in Charlottesville
Miller Center expert Nicole Hemmer writes at CNN that anti-Semitism is key to the resurgence of white supremacy
[Read the full article on CNN]
The Tree of Life synagogue shooting on Saturday, in which 11 people were killed during Shabbat services, stunned the nation. Mass shootings happen with depressing regularity in the United States, but the virulent anti-Semitism that fueled the attack came as a surprise to many. "I just want to kill Jews," the shooter allegedly told police. President Trump, in a rally held a few hours after the attack, expressed disbelief: "It looks definitely like it's an anti-Semitic crime, and that is something you wouldn't believe could still be going on."
The return of violent anti-Semitism should not have come as a surprise, however. In 2017, white supremacists hoisting Nazi flags and shouting "Jews will not replace us!" swarmed Charlottesville. Though ostensibly in town to protest the removal of a Confederate monument, the alt-right brought to town chants and symbols that were primarily anti-Semitic. And they were not alone: a month earlier, the Ku Klux Klan had come to Charlottesville to rally. Almost all their signs and placards bore anti-Semitic messages, like one that read "Jews are Satan's children."
The deadly violence in Charlottesville put the alt-right and white supremacy at the center of national political debate. Yet the anti-Semitism part of the story quickly disappeared. Most analysis centered on Confederate statues and anti-black racism—which, to be sure, was a core part of the story. But as reporters and pundits focused on the Confederate flags that cluttered the streets of Charlottesville, they lost sight of the specific history behind the Nazi flags that flapped beside them.
As I began work on A12, a podcast series about the violence in Charlottesville, I couldn't reconcile the centrality of anti-Semitism on August 11 and 12 with its marginalization in the year since. So I turned to Charlottesville's rabbis and Jewish residents, including a historian of Jews in Charlottesville, to find the answers.