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Jack Weinstein

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Today, the Grand Forks Herald, published an article about my inclusion in The Professor Watch List. It is a thoughtful piece. You can read it here.

Buried in the 18th paragraph is a mention about the antisemitic letter I received last week, the one I wrote the blog entry about. It was in no way, the subject of the article. It was just an aside emphasizing how these sorts of attacks make people feel vulnerable.

Within a few hours, the journalist herself got her own antisemitic rant. It read:

you do know you cannot have antisemitism without semitism right ??

I’m sure you are a college grad and do know the jews have been kicked out of 89 countries 109 times right ?

You do know that…..? Right ?

If this guy has his way you will not be able to have a gun in this country………

I know about the letter because the journalist sent it to me. She didn’t understand one of the references and sought to know more. I have nothing but respect for this. As a Jew and a teacher, I can think of nothing nobler than asking to learn more, especially about a painful and complex topic like antisemitism. I wish more journalists were as conscientious as she is.

I wrote her a detailed line-by-line historical explanation of the email; I won’t repost it here. But just in case others have a difficult time deciphering the sentence fragments, I will reprint my plain-English summary.

Decoded, the letter writer was saying the following: “Jews were the first to separate themselves because they thought they were better than everyone else. Because they are so arrogant and such separatists, everything bad that happens to them is their own fault. Most people know this and kick them out of their countries, because they are so bad that they shouldn’t be allowed to mingle with others. You too should know this because you are a college graduate. If you don’t, your college education is worthless, and if you don’t hate Jews, you yourself are ignorant. One sign that Jews are so bad and deserve everything they get is that Jack Weinstein, this Jew, wants to take everyone’s guns away. Therefore, it’s okay to hate Jews and you should too. The fact that you wrote an article means you are sympathetic to them and a traitor.”

I hope that it goes without saying that virtually every single sentence in that argument is false. Jews were not the first to separate themselves, they did not do so beacuse they thought themselves better than others, they do not deserve the bad things happened to them, they weren’t kicked out of countries because they were actually evil, it is not okay to hate Jews, and, as I have said many times, I do not want to take people’s guns away. In fact, one the very first things I discussed on my radio show was how living in North Dakota softened my position on hunting.

I never asked who wrote the letter or their email address. That information really doesn’t matter. The relevant point is this: I did not ask for any of this. Neither did the journalist. Nor does anyone else. In the original blog, I wrote “I rebroadcast a discussion of antisemitism and I got an antisemitic attack in response. This is not surprising to anyone who follows this sort of thing.” I am sure that some people thought my claim was hyperbole. I often tell people that virtually every time someone advocates for Jews they get antisemitic backlash, but it is clear that many don’t believe me. Now everyone can see it’s true. The journalist is not Jewish. She was not even defending me. She was just going about her job and she got sucked into the hate as well. She doesn’t deserve this kind of hostile and hateful attention. No one does.

There are those who may look at this and think that it is too much trouble to put oneself at risk to defend others. I don’t respect this point of view, but I understand it. Being vulnerable is exhausting. The Professor Watch List and the antisemitic email have taken up most of my time for the last week. I am behind in my work and I miss just hanging out with my family, especially during a long holiday weekend.

Nevertheless, we can’t let people intimidate us. We can’t let journalists stand alone and regard it as too much of a burden to report on hate, on discrimination, and on topics that might end up in backlash. It is too tempting for them to choose the easy route and see journlaism as entertainment. We all have to stand firm in the face of hostility and demand real news.

America is at a crossroad right now. Do we go down the road of passive acceptance and fear, or do we go down the road of truth, mutual respect, and fighting for what’s right? I obviously vote for the latter. It is difficult, it is tiring, it is scary, and at its best, it is a pain in the ass. But what else is there? How else could we look at ourselves in the mirror? How else can we meet our children’s eyes?

Follow the author on Twitter: @jackrweinstein

2 comments on “A reporter wrote an article about me and got an antisemitic email in response.

  1. Anonymous says:

    If this is for real? If so it's definitely wrong! And what is this Professors watchlist? is it like right-wing watch list or deniers watchlist? These are on sites that are not directly critical about what our scholastic institutions teach or which professors teach do the teaching. So, to suggest that professors like you somehow need to be watched, harkens back to the McCarthy era and spits in the face of our first Amendment rights.

    I wish you all the luck in the world. Fighting back really is much harder and a pain in the ass, and the haters will respond with more hate, but think of the alternative we'd face in a world without guaranteed first Amendment protections.

  2. Sadly, it is very much for real. Here is a link to today's NY Times story on it. They are very behind the curve in covering it, but it is the most recent one:

    Thanks for your supportive words!

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