Tuesday morning, I woke up to an extremely disturbing Facebook post. It was not something I hadn’t seen before. In fact, it was something that pops up in my news feed somewhat regularly: a spray-painted swastika. This time, it hit too close to home. The swastikas were painted in Downtown Binghamton, on Oak Street and Main Street, a spot I’ve walked past so many times over the past 3 1/2 years.
As children, two words were drilled into my mind by my parents, schools and community: “Never forget” the atrocities of Nazi Germany. This echoes the idea brought forth in the verse from the Torah that commands, “Remember what Amalek did to you,” referring to the nation of Amalek’s attempt to annihilate the Jewish people while on their path to the Land of Israel after their exodus from Egypt. Yet despite this constant repetition of those two words, just 73 years after the Holocaust ended, we are seeing the same signs that were rampant across Europe before the Holocaust.
Flashing back to the 1930s, I wonder what my family thought in European countries and in Russia when they saw a swastika painted on the street. Did they think it was all smoke and no fire? Just another one of the countless displays of anti-Semitism that has manifested itself throughout the history of the Jewish people? They couldn’t have known the horrors that they would face or, for many of my ancestors, have anticipated the certain death that awaited them in the concentration camps. Coming back to 2018, these swastikas painted in a cowardly act in Binghamton is not an isolated incident. Eleven Jews who were praying in the Tree of Life synagogue were murdered just last week in Pittsburgh. Anti-Semitic graffiti appeared on a synagogue in California last week. The Anti-Defamation League recorded a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic acts in 2017.
Being Jewish is a huge part of my identity. I grew up going to Jewish day schools and summer camps. I spent a gap year between high school and college in Israel. I am active in the Jewish community on campus, having served on the executive board of the Rohr Chabad Center for Jewish Student Life for two years. When I saw the pictures of the swastikas Downtown, my heart dropped. You always think of the issue as being so far away from home, not a five-minute drive away. Four thousand Binghamton University students identify as Jewish, and there is a thriving, vibrant Jewish community on campus made possible by an extremely supportive University administration, Chabad at Binghamton and Hillel at Binghamton. In fact, the welcoming Jewish community at BU was a huge deciding factor when I enrolled at the end of my senior year of high school.
Following the horrific attack in Pittsburgh, at least 750 students and community members of all different faiths gathered in the Jewish Community Center of Binghamton for a vigil in a sign of strength, unity and mourning. Additionally, I saw Brian Rose, BU’s vice president for student affairs, at Shabbat dinner at Chabad on Friday night, where he addressed students and showed the school’s support for the Jewish community. As of the time this was written, the University has not issued a statement regarding the anti-Semitic act. While the incident with the swastikas Downtown happened off campus, it is extremely unsettling nonetheless and deeply impacts many of the students on campus.
My message for anyone reading this is that the anti-Semitic attacks need to end. I also want to remind everyone to never forget. Never forget the past or it will happen again. Never forget who you are and where you come from, and don’t let acts of hatred, like the painting of a swastika, intimidate you into hiding your identity. Never again.
Samantha Fischler is a senior majoring in business administration.