Mabel Cook, 16, a student at Hall High School in West Hartford, submitted the following Op-Ed to the New York Times Student Editorial Contest last spring. It was one of 12,000 entries from throughout the world, and was among just 95 fourth-round finalist submissions.
There were 11 winners, 12 runners-up, and 33 honorable mentions in addition to the fourth-place finishers. Mabel’s op-ed was among just eight from Connecticut to gain recognition, and the only one from West Hartford. She was among the top 1.25% of all entries.
Her entry appears below, and has been republished with permission.
It’s Time to Put an End to Antisemitism
By Mabel Cook
West Hartford is a town of 64,000 people. One out of six residents are foreign-born, and there are 80 different languages spoken. West Hartford also has one of the largest Jewish populations between Boston and New York City; I live within walking distance of four different synagogues.
Maybe that’s why the West Hartford Town Council recently passed a resolution condemning the rise of antisemitism in Connecticut and across the country. According to the FBI, antisemitic hate crimes across America increased by nearly 20% from 2020 to 2021; anti-Jewish hate crimes represented the fourth-largest proportion of hate crimes in 2021, behind anti-Black, anti-white, and anti-gay male hate crimes.
Meanwhile, the number of antisemitic incidents in Connecticut doubled in 2022 compared with 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League. There were 68 antisemitic incidents in Connecticut in 2022, up from 34 in 2021. Those cases included 55 incidents of harassment and 13 incidents of vandalism.
That means Connecticut is 11th-highest in the number of antisemitic incidents in the U.S.A. According to the ADL, antisemitic incidents were seen in 34 Connecticut communities, or about one out of every five towns.
I have several Jewish friends; one of them has talked to me about her family’s concern about the rise in antisemitism. As a biracial, 15-year-old woman, I am also sensitive to the rise in hate crimes in general over the past few years. It’s especially concerning to me as a young adult that even a popular musician like Kanye West (“Ye”) has been exposed as a very strong antisemite. He’s been a great influence among the younger generation and there’s no telling what horrible effect his hatred of Jews may have on future generations.
To help combat antisemitism and other hate and bias crimes, just last year the Connecticut state legislature created a new state police hate crimes investigative unit. Unfortunately, even with that unit, anti-semitic and other bias crimes in Connecticut have been underreported, under-investigated, and under-prosecuted, according to reporting by Hearst Connecticut Media. Of the 59 cases in 2022 in which the state police hate crimes unit got involved, 44 cases were suspended with no leads.
Connecticut and America need to take the growing problem of antisemitism more seriously. A comprehensive public advertising campaign could raise awareness and encourage people to say something when they hear or see antisemitism. Maybe lawmakers could take the issue of antisemitism as seriously as they do the issue of catalytic converter theft by increasing jail time and fines.
Antisemitism has been a problem for centuries, and it’s not going away. In fact, it’s growing. If America is going to succeed as a melting pot, we need more acceptance and understanding.
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Fenster, Jordan Nathaniel. “Antisemitic incidents in CT doubled in 2022, ADL says.” CT Insider, ctinsider.com, 23 Mar. 2023, www.ctinsider.com/connecticut/article/adl-antisemtic-incidents-ct-2022-17854157.php. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.
Governor Lamont’s Office. “Governor Lamont Signs Legislation Strengthening Hate Crime Investigations by the Connecticut State Police.” 24 May 2022, portal.ct.gov/Office-of-the-Governor/News/Press-Releases/2022/05-2022/Governor-Lamont-Signs-Legislation-Strengthening-Hate-Crime-Investigations. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.
Graham, Ruth. “Antisemitic Incidents Reach New High in U.S., Anti-Defamation League Says.” The New York Times, nytimes.com, 23 Mar. 2023, www.nytimes.com/2023/03/23/us/antisemitism-anti-defamation-league-report.html. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.
Rod, Marc. “Updated FBI hate crimes statistics show 20% increase in antisemitic hate crimes.” Jewish Insider, jewishinsider.com, 14 Mar. 2023, jewishinsider.com/2023/03/hate-crimes-antisemitism-fbi-rep-kathy-manning-anti-defamation-league-american-jewish-committee/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.
Smith, Steve. “West Hartford passes resolution condemning anti-Semitic violence.” Hartford Courant, courant.com, 16 Mar. 2023, www.courant.com/2023/03/16/west-hartford-passes-resolution-condemning-anti-semitic-violence/. Accessed 26 Mar. 2023.