By Michael Balaban

Submitted to The Philadelphia Inquirer on November 18, 2022; featured in the “Letters to the Editor” section on November 29, 2022.

This week, 1,000 Jewish students were forced to evacuate after a bomb threat was made on the Schwartz Campus in Bryn Mawr. Jewish high school students have experienced their peers screaming “Heil Hitler” or “Kanye was right” at them. A Jewish student in Springfield was physically assaulted.  Worshippers have been harassed walking to synagogue.  

At a time when Jews are being attacked, physically assaulted, bullied on school buses, harassed online and threatened, making antisemitism the focus of a SNL monologue is unacceptable. 

Jew hatred is not a laughing matter – ever! For those who are not aware, last weekend, comedian Dave Chappelle appeared on Saturday Night Live, where NBC-TV gave him a national platform to deliver a lengthy monologue that, rather raise an issue of critical concern, put Jews at the center of his jokes and furthered the normalization of the oldest forms of hate. 

“It shouldn’t be this scary to talk about anything,” said Chappelle on SNL. “This makes my job incredibly difficult…. I hope ‘they’ don’t take anything away from me… whoever ‘they’ are.”

Chappelle doesn’t clearly identify who “they” are, but it is quite obvious that “they” are Jews – the butt of his jokes throughout the monologue. His shtick to joke about the age-old antisemitic conspiracy that Jews control the world for nefarious purposes is irresponsible and may further the cause of those who focus attacks on the Jewish community by people who become believers in this conspiracy.

Chappelle’s commentary is dangerous and contributes to the growing normalization of antisemitism that we saw earlier by Kayne West and Kyrie Irving. 

When celebrities and populists use their platform to push an agenda that targets a group as the other, many of their followers, unfortunately, begin to accept this propaganda and use it against Jewish people.

Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia continues to receive regular and disturbing reports about the rise of these threats antisemitic behavior is going unchecked in their schools and on public street.  We must come to understand- all of us- that the threat of antisemitism is real and Jews across the United States should not tolerate nor accept the normalization of it.  History has taught us that what starts with the hatred of Jews, never ends there.  

It is time for all people to reject this hatred and voice their opposition. We can no longer allow mainstream media outlets like NBC or entertainers to use their personal platforms to share their ignorant beliefs about the Jewish people. We cannot allow these behaviors to be tolerated. Dave Chappelle and others of influence should use their platforms to educate rather than enable the normalization of antisemitism.