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Antisemitism Explained

A placard representing a flag of Israel with a Nazi swastika inside the Star of David at a rally outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul, Turkey. Photograph by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images

These short videos explore antisemitism today and how it has persisted for thousands of years.

What Is Antisemitism?

Antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews. In the United States, antisemitic incidents continue to rise yearly. Hatred of Jews can take many forms, including violent attacks. It also appears in daily life. Do you know how to recognize it online, in social media, or in conversation?


The suspect in today’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh had an extensive antisemitic, anti-Jewish digital footprint.

On the last day of Passover, bloodshed in the middle of Shabbat services.

We believe that the suspect held views that reflected hatred of the Jewish people.

Violent attacks against Jews are on the rise.

In the US, antisemitic incidents are at the highest levels in 40 years—and have more than doubled in the past ten.

These attacks all have a common root: antisemitism.

Antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews.

And it can take many forms.

The Holocaust, during which Nazis and their collaborators murdered 6 million Jews, is the worst example of antisemitism in history.

But it also exists in daily life.

A popular meme depicts a man, meant to be Jewish, with exaggerated, grotesque features.

A social media influencer makes a joke about the Holocaust, or does a Nazi salute in a video shared with millions of followers.

Hateful hashtags trend on Instagram.

School buildings are defaced with swastikas.

Someone argues that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist.

These are all expressions of antisemitism that can become dangerous if left unchallenged.

Sometimes, antisemitism doesn’t sound like hatred — it might even sound complimentary.

For example, believing that all Jews are good with money can open the door to more overtly antisemitic beliefs such as all Jews are greedy.

When repeated over and over, and not questioned, stereotypes can be accepted as truth.

And that can eventually lead to biases and hatred of an entire group.

The Holocaust began with words, not killing.

And while there’s no direct connection between sharing a meme and violent attacks, when left unchecked, antisemitism creeps into all aspects of society.

And starts chipping away at democratic values.

The more you hear or see antisemitism in your social media feed or in casual conversations, the more accustomed—or numb—you become to hateful and dangerous beliefs and behavior.

Which is why it’s important to never ignore it, overlook it, or accept it.

History of Antisemitism

Hatred of Jews has existed for thousands of years. The Holocaust, in which the Nazis and their collaborators murdered six million Jews in Europe, was one of the worst examples. But antisemitism didn’t start or end with the Holocaust. What makes antisemitism one of the oldest and most persistent forms of hatred?


The Covid-19 pandemic upturned the world, creating both health and economic disasters.

Along with these disasters came another persistent threat: A rise in antisemitism.

Antisemitism means prejudice against or hatred of Jews.

In the US, antisemitic incidents are at the highest levels in 40 years—and have more than doubled in the past 10.

In times of economic or political turmoil, we often look for something or someone to blame.

For centuries, starting with the crucifixion of Jesus, Jews have been a frequent scapegoat, falsely blamed for catastrophic events.

In the Middle Ages, when the bubonic plague was destroying Europe, Jews were wrongly accused of spreading it by poisoning drinking wells.

It was even said that Jews murdered Christian babies to use their blood in religious rituals.

This so-called blood libel led to massacres of Jews between the 12th and 16th centuries.

Fast-forward to the early 1900s, and the devastation caused by the first world war made many people look for simple explanations for what had caused the conflict—or influenced its outcome.

In Germany, defeated military leaders spread lies that German Jews had betrayed their country, stabbing it in the back and causing it to lose the war.

In addition to having lost the first world war, Germany was struggling through the Great Depression of the 1930s.

This made many citizens even more desperate for someone to blame for the economic disaster.

The Nazi Party that rose to power in 1933 exploited this unrest.

They began depicting Jews as the enemy of the German people.

They said that Jews were an internal source of contagion or disease in Europe that had to be wiped out.

Through official state channels, Nazis said that Jews were the reason for Germany’s misfortune.

They exploited the general population's readiness to scapegoat Jews by enacting laws that targeted the freedoms of the Jewish people.

Sometimes called the longest hatred, antisemitism has persisted for thousands of years.

No matter how much the world changes, antisemitism adapts, flaring up again and again during turbulent times.

Coronavirus lockdowns and COVID conspiracies are being blamed for a rise in antisemitism.

This persistent nature, not grounded in facts or reality, is what makes it so dangerous and deadly.

If history has taught us anything, it’s that we can never ignore it, overlook it, or accept it.