Those brave Americans who perished in World War II are rolling over in their graves. Buried in foreign soil and at home, they fought and defeated Nazi ideology. The eternal slumber of these heroes has been disturbed by a resurgence of America’s all-time greatest enemy—Nazis. Ironically, these Nazis are not foreign born, but largely native citizens of the United States. As a result of this infestation, the amount of reported anti-Semitic incidents across the United States has nearly doubled in the current year compared to 2016. How and why this Nazi virus has infected the country is debatable. However, the antidote for this fulminating disease of hatred has been discovered by the century old Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL believes in the power of inclusion and uniting people from diverse groups—because as a nation, we are stronger together than when we are apart. Recognizing that hatred is an acquired trait, the ADL has established an elementary, middle school and high school classroom curriculum titled, “No Place for Hate.” More than a civics course, it teaches our children the concepts of equality and justice for everyone.
Even today, I vividly recall being ridiculed in school for being Jewish. While it was always a small number of kids that engaged in this behavior, it was nonetheless hurtful and demeaning. My response was always to physically fight back regardless of the place and time. For instance, in class one day, I asked to borrow a piece of paper from a classmate. This simple request immediately led to the ignoramus pupil behind me remarking that I was a “cheap Jew.” Unable to restrain myself, I immediately got up and knocked the fellow out of his chair. Unfortunately, the sound of this chap hitting the floor alerted the teacher. As usual, in these instances, it was I who was assigned the blame and off to the vice principal’s office for punishment I was sent. Sadly, this was not an uncommon occurrence for me.
While at the time I did have the distinction of holding the record in school for the most detentions received in any single year, in retrospect, my approach never really permanently changed anyone’s behavior or thinking. It was not until years later that I realized that anti-Semitism was an acquired trait and one borne out of pure ignorance.
I believe, as does the ADL, that “People are not born with hate. Rather, they learn to hate.” We need more of the ADL school curriculums which are designed to prevent cyberstalking, cyberbullying, bias, bigotry, prejudice, stereotyping, racism and discrimination of others. We need more of the ADL teaching tools including speakers, essay contests, murals, lessons of the Holocaust, field trips and a multitude of classroom exercises designed to educate as to the evil of hatred and how to recognize and overcome it. Every school should have this program. Together, as a humane community, America needs our support to broaden these types of efforts.
Nearly 250 years ago, in their infinite wisdom and with divine providence, the Founding Fathers came together and created our nation, which was unlike any other that had ever existed before. They were careful not to designate an official religion of the United States. Rather, they chose what has become the time-honored American tradition of freedom of religion. Importantly, the Constitution prescribes a strong judicial system guaranteeing trial by jury which ensures that our country is a country of laws and not of dictators. America’s greatest generation made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our country from Nazi tyranny. For all those who were murdered, died and suffered from Nazi tyranny, we should all commit ourselves to not allowing its hateful ideology to flourish on our own soil.
Today, brave men and women continue to fight and die to protect the American way of freedom and dignity for all. In recognition and appreciation of all those who sacrifice to create and keep intact our precious nation, we need to support organizations such as the ADL in grassroots initiatives to preserve and protect our American values and way of life.
Edward R. Blumberg is Miami civil litigator, former president of the Florida Bar and a former member of the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates.