Ari (Ballaban) Jun — In Conversation
Shedding Light on the Problem
Before that, a short recap. On September 5, the WCTP invited a speaker who gave an antisemitic talk to their group, and they disseminated his speech and more antisemitic content to their full mailing list on September 9. We have since found that they have for a long time been sharing blatantly antisemitic content through their social media platforms. Their Facebook page (which has ~1,400 followers) has thousands of posts. Besides animosity for their political adversaries, just one single group receives their consistent reprobation: Jews. The WCTP very well may hate groups other than us, (for instance, they clearly are not fond of the trans community). But, for whatever reason, they really hate Jews.
Here’s why that matters: We are witnessing a real-time mainstreaming of hate against the Jewish community. Originally the province of only fringe groups, ideas shared by the WCTP are being more and more accepted by people in the mainstream. Small group though they may be, the WCTP has influence. Among other things, they endorse candidates (e.g., Lakota School Board), get visited by elected Republicans, and influence the political landscape in Butler County. And this group is mainstreaming Nazi-era antisemitism.
So, to address my first point of focus, here’s why I believe bringing attention to this is necessary.
The WCTP’s behavior is only enabled in a context where they perceive the public to be sufficiently ambivalent about antisemitism. To care, perhaps, but not too much. And maybe this Tea Party chapter is right, given how long they have continued their vitriol unchecked. In any event, what we need now is action:
- We need the WCTP to stop trafficking in antisemitism.
- We need their leadership to recognize they crossed a line.
- We need political consequences for a political organization making antisemitism more acceptable in our cultural discourse.
The people we especially need right now are our Republican leaders. We need them to stand up, speak out, and say this isn’t right. Why Republicans? Because—although antisemitism comes from both the left and right—this antisemitism is from the right, and it’s ostensibly being done in Republicans’ names.
To my second focus, here’s the good news: Every Republican official with whom we’ve spoken, from local state representatives all the way to those in the Governor’s office, has said they’re horrified. Two people particularly deserve recognition: Representative Sara Carruthers and Attorney General Dave Yost. Representative Carruthers was the first elected official to speak out, and she has been our Nachshon—the person legend tells us was first to step toward the Red Sea, bravely risking everything for what needed to be done. After Nachshon, the Israelites followed. Likewise, after Rep. Carruthers, I hope other Republicans may follow. And, as of now, one already has: AG Yost. The AG was directly in touch with the JCRC to better understand the situation, then he went ahead and made his own statement expressing anger at what happened in West Chester. Separately, I want to also thank (Democratic) Representatives Dani Isaacsohn and Casey Weinstein for putting official statements on their House pages.
To echo a principle oft uttered by one of my esteemed teachers, Dr. Rabbi Gary Zola, “Silence is acquiescence.” In responding, our elected leaders make sure that they do not acquiesce to the antisemites and embolden them. They do not allow them—the antisemites—to imagine that they are correct or to think that no one really cares that much.
For all those who have expressed their private concern and condemnation, thank you. It is meaningful, and it is uplifting to hear your support, and I am encouraged to know that you are working on behalf of all your constituents, even if behind the scenes. That matters. And, to those who have spoken out publicly, please know that we see you and we appreciate you greatly. Through times of policy agreement and disagreement, we know that all of you are our allies, each in your own way.
With hopes that the Jewish New Year will bring with it rest and refreshment (and some cooler weather!),