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Seattle Jewish community reacts to nationwide antisemitism

There's a growing concern over antisemitic incidents across the country and here in Seattle. This comes after racist social media comments by a well-known celebrity.

SEATTLE — A concerning amount of antisemitic incidents are happening across the United States. This comes after the U.S. saw a dramatic rise in antisemitic reports in 2021. 

The Anti-Defamation League is pointing to social media as a root cause and saying combatting misinformation is more important than ever. 

"These are themes that are driving people to violent action that they are initially seeing online," said Oren Segal who is the Vice President of the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism. He said there's already been a shift since Elon Musk took over Twitter. 

"So Kanye West is the perfect example of how concerning this is and why the Jewish community feels so vulnerable right now. He has more followers on Twitter than there are Jews on the planet earth," said Segal.

Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, has been dropped by many business partners because of his anti-Jewish comments made on social media. 

"It normalizes antisemitism and anti-Jewish hate and normalizes that sense of othering of a group of people which is plaguing our entire society right now," said Will Berkovitz who is a Rabbi and also the CEO of Jewish Family Service, which serves those in need in the community, including refugees and those struggling with homelessness. Berkovitz said his organization was targeted by hate speech a couple of months ago.

"That sense of being threatened in our homes, in our own neighborhoods, in our places of worship, our own places of worship is very real," said Berkovitz. 

Last week KING 5 reported on antisemitic drawings found in a Western Washington University student union building. Native art was also vandalized on Evergreen State College's campus. 

"The Pacific Northwest has a history of extremism and white supremacy and antisemitism even and we see it in modern manifestations today," said Segal.

The Anti-Defamation League uses this map to track hate and antisemitism. They're also tracking new extremist groups that start in the Pacific Northwest. 

"The scariest thing to me sometimes is not these incidents we see play out around the country. It's that so many people fail to realize that it's hate, it's antisemitism. They can't even tell the difference anymore," said Segal.

KING 5 asked Berkovitz what people can do to be an ally, he said reaching out makes a huge difference whether that be a text or a phone call. Acknowledging what's happening and speaking up will ensure that behavior doesn't get normalized.

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