‘You Can’t Escape Your Judaism’

‘You Can’t Escape Your Judaism’

Dave Schechter

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

You may have read that an editor at The New York Times quit using Twitter after anti-Semitic abuse by something called the “alt-right.”

That was Atlanta native Jonathan Weisman, a deputy Washington editor of the Times.

Weisman said his breaking point — a message calling him a “kike” and telling him to “prepare for the oven” — came after Twitter was shown numerous examples but took no action.

“So I will be moving to Facebook, where at least people need to use their real names and can’t hide behind fakery to spread their hate,” he informed his 34,700 Twitter followers June 8.

Dave Schechter
Dave Schechter

The alt-right considers mainstream conservatism soft on ethnic and religious minorities. Several Jewish journalists have been targeted by trolls who profess allegiance to Donald Trump and hide behind what they suppose are clever Twitter account names.

On May 18, Weisman posted a Washington Post op-ed about Trump by Robert Kagan titled “So This Is How Fascism Comes to America.”

Weisman described in the Times what followed: “Trump God Emperor sent me the Nazi iconography of the shiftless, hooknosed Jew. I was served an image of the gates of Auschwitz, the famous words ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ replaced without irony with ‘Machen Amerika Great.’ Holocaust taunts, like a path of dollar bills leading into an oven, were followed by Holocaust denial. The Jew as leftist puppet master from @DonaldTrumpLA was joined by the Jew as conservative fifth columnist, orchestrating war for Israel. That one came from someone who tagged himself a proud future member of the Trump Deportation Squad,” he wrote.

Weisman asked about their use of triple parentheses around Jewish names. Like putting a bell on a cat, one troll replied, to show how Jewish names (((echo))) through history.

“I’ll leave @jonathanweisman as a shrine to hate and a research tool for anyone actually interested in this contemporary manifestation of anti-Semitism, which is at once thoroughly modern (snide, patronizing, provocative) and ancient, with all the tropes that have bedeviled Jews for centuries,” Weisman said by email days before leaving Twitter.

A week after exiting the social media platform, Weisman added: “Life without Twitter is just fine. I find myself reading far deeper into stories.”

Twitter eventually suspended the accounts of several offenders, and Google Chrome removed an app that aided the tracking of Jewish names. Meanwhile, numerous Jews (and non-Jewish supporters) on Twitter placed parentheses around their names as a sign of defiance.

Weisman’s parents, retired Dr. Evan and psychologist Nancy Weisman, his twin sister, Dr. Jamie Weisman, and his brother, Mark Weisman, all live in the Atlanta area.

“My parents moved to Atlanta in 1967, when I was 2. They joined The Temple because of Rabbi (Jacob) Rothschild and his role in the civil rights movement. Even after they moved to the suburbs (Sandy Springs), we schlepped to The Temple, while most of our Jewish neighbors went to Temple Sinai. My parents were committed,” said Weisman, whose bar mitzvah ceremony was officiated by Rabbi Rothschild’s successor, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman, now the emeritus rabbi.

“There was a very large and vibrant Jewish community then, as there is now. I’d say what anti-Semitism I encountered was casual and somewhat apologetic. People would talk of Jewing down a price without thinking, but I also remember a friend apologizing because his mother had said I was a Jew. I assured him I am and am not offended,” Weisman said. “Racism and anti-homosexual sentiments were far more prevalent and dangerous. I never felt unwelcome in Atlanta. Frankly, as a child in Atlanta, I regarded Catholics as far more exotic than Jews. And back then, far more than now, the alliance between African-American and Jewish leaders was strong, public and proud. The Temple’s partnership with Ebenezer Baptist Church was a point of pride for the congregation and for me personally.”

Weismann graduated in 1983 from Riverwood High School and in 1988 from Northwestern University, where he studied African history and journalism. After college, he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Guinea Bissau and the Philippines. He joined The New York Times in early 2012 from the The Wall Street Journal. His first novel, “No. 4 Imperial Lane,” was published last year.

The 50-year-old Weisman acknowledged the personal impact of the anti-Semitic abuse: “It so happens that my younger daughter is in the midst of bat mitzvah training, and my girlfriend’s daughter just was bat mitzvahed, so all of this has played out as I spend a lot of time doing Jewish things. By coincidence really, Judaism is more a part of my life now than it has been for a long time. But being tagged with triple parentheses on social media to denote my religion does make me realize the post-World War truism that you can’t escape your Judaism. The haters won’t let you.”

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