A local group is holding online webinars on several topics it says are vital to northern Nevada. The group, Northern Nevada Marches Forward, held its first panel discussion Tuesday focused on antisemitism.
Panelists included local rabbis, activists, academics and students.
Rabbi Benjamin Zober said antisemitism is hatred and hostility expressed at Jews because of being Jewish. It stems from the Middle Ages, but hatred expressed toward Jews continues to be manifested and repackaged in different forms.
Far-right conspiracy theorists are expressing antisemitic beliefs and tropes, he said. “QAnon, the conspiracy theory, when you look at it or watch it, a lot of the ideas in there are straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [but it is] just repackaged for the 21st century.
“It’s not new – they just give it to us in a new way,” Zober added.
“Antisemitism has been part of QAnon culture since its inception,” the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) confirms. “QAnon’s antisemitism has been most visible at two points: its beginnings – when it emerged from the swastika-studded fever swamp that is 4chan – and the present, when the most popular QAnon influencer, GhostEzra, is an open Nazi who praises Hitler, admires the Third Reich, and decries the supposedly treacherous nature of Jews.”
Antisemitism is considered the oldest form of hatred toward a group of people, according to a historian at Manchester Metropolitan University.
“Antisemitism has been called history’s oldest hatred and it has shown itself to be remarkably adaptable. It is carved from – and sustained by – powerful precedents and inherited stereotypes,” writes Gervasse Phillips.
Racist and antisemitic hate crimes are rising in Nevada, said panelist Steven Weidman. “The recent increase in hate crime seems to have a direct correlation to the popularity of social media, the founding of Black Lives Matter and the protests after the George Floyd murder.
“White supremacist propaganda, which allows extremist groups to … disseminate hateful messages and gain attention with little risk of public exposure has been on the rise for several years,” he added.
The group scrolled through images of antisemitic fliers posted around Reno and Las Vegas in recent years. The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was also discussed. The shooter shot and killed 11 people and wounded six, including Holocaust survivors. The killer, Robert Bowers, was charged with 29 federal crimes.
Panelists at the forum also noted publicized cases of antisemitism at the University of Nevada, Reno. UNR has a web page devoted to documenting incidents of hate reported on campus. The most recent antisemitic incident was reported in February of 2020, but four more recent reports of racism and xenophobia have been documented since then.
Two dozen instances of swastikas have been documented on campus in recent years. Matt Lacoff, a UNR student, said he has experienced antisemitism.
“One of the people in my [dorm] suite started harassing me for being Jewish, doing the Nazi salute at me and things like that,” he told those attending the presentation.
Atty Garfinkel-Berry, director of Hillel of Northern Nevada, said she suspected some of the antisemitism at UNR was because of students not being exposed to diverse cultures and religions.
“We discovered that almost all of our early on swastikas happened in the first part of the fall semester, so we came to believe that perhaps this had something to do with new freshmen who had never interacted with others,” she said. “And once we started actually targeting the RAs in the dorms and the mentors, we discovered that pretty quickly all the problems with the swastikas on campus went away, which says it was dominantly an issue of education.”
Overt antisemitism has been reduced, Garfinkle-Berry added, but less obvious forms of antisemitism persist.
Northern Nevada Marches Forward has upcoming seminars on systemic racism, violence against women and climate change. It also sponsors the annual Reno Women’s March.
Bob Conrad is publisher, editor and co-founder of This Is Reno. He has served in communications positions for various state agencies and earned a doctorate in educational leadership from the University of Nevada, Reno in 2011. In addition to managing This Is Reno, he holds a part-time appointment for the Mineral County University of Nevada Extension office.