Courtesy of Ted Eytan via CCBYSA2.0Flickr

Flyers containing antisemitic rhetoric were found in Florida, Colorado, Wisconsin, Texas, California and Maryland in January. The flyers state that the Jewish community is responsible for the pandemic. It was reported that the flyers had a list of influential public health figures who the creators of the flier falsely claimed are Jewish. Sadly, this kind of behavior isn’t uncommon and can be found repetitively across American and world history. Jewish Americans are at risk and have been for a long time. Americans should have already been concerned about the scapegoating and harassment of Jewish people amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

The myth of Jewish power presents an incredible danger to Jewish individuals and communities. This myth is the belief that Jewish people are inherently powerful and wield that power in a sinister manner over society. Blaming the Jewish community for the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 is the latest in a long line of illogical assumptions based on this false ideology. For instance, a hostage situation in Texas involved a man holding Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker at gunpoint at a prayer service. The man held the Rabbi and three other members of the congregation hostage. He demanded that Rabbi Cytron-Walker call Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of the Central Synagogue in New York so that she could secure the freedom of a convicted terrorist. This same mindset is what led to the dispersal of these anti-semitic flyers claiming that Jewish people could have control over a global pandemic. It’s the same mindset that allowed people to believe that Jewish people could be responsible for their life struggles during World War II and killed six million Jews.

Jewish people are already typically the most targeted religious community in the U.S. Statistics from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicate that anti-Jewish hate crimes are almost 55% of all religious related hate crimes. If that doesn’t seem disturbing, note that Jewish people make up only approximately 2% of the American population. There are already recent reports of an escalation in hate crimes in New York. Information out of New York City, Police Department reports that anti-Jewish hate crimes have increased by 275% from January 2021 to January 2022. There’s already something to be worried about.

Human behavior is repetitive — as is history. Scapegoating is a common feature of world history, and it seems like no one is learning a lesson. The psychology of scapegoating suggests that people desire to feel like heroes, and in order to do that, they need a villain. In order to preserve a positive self-image, people tend to explain negative events by blaming others. Instead of choosing to accept some of the sacrifices that need to be made in order to come together and survive the pandemic, it’s easier for some to try and find a villain and fight a nonsensical falsehood. By implying that the Jewish people are to blame for the pandemic and its devastating effects, hateful individuals indicate that these groups should be the ones making the sacrifices needed to solve a problem that they undoubtedly had absolutely no hand in.

A culture of fear is woven into the fabric of America, so hate crimes happen and will continue to happen without intervention. The very least everyone can do is recognize that these hate crimes are not a sudden development, but rather the result of ignorance that this country cannot afford to sweep under the rug.