I want to get that out of the way so that there is no confusion as to why I'm writing this story. I grew up in New Jersey, a progressive state, yet I've experienced anti-semitism at different moments of my life. I say this not because I want to give credibility to what I write, but because I want people to understand that it exists in all over America even today.
My first time experiencing anti-semitism was in 1996 when I was 11 years old. The front door of my synagogue was defaced by a Swastika, the image of hate that represents the massacre of 6,000,000 Jews in Europe. This happened in a town where the country club had a rumored policy of "no Jewish members" allowed. I'm not sure if this is still in place today but I remember that several family friends had applications turned down because they belonged to my congregation.
A year later I faced anti-semitism in a more direct way when I had pennies thrown at me at school dances. I attended a private school which my mom had to fight with the board to have observance of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur excused. The school's song began "a brown stone church on a corner" yet officially it wasn't a faith-based institution.
Fast forward to my freshman year of college where I've become known as the "Floor Jew" by several people. They would "jokingly" do the sieg heil while saying "hi! How are you?" whenever they'd see me. This was the first time when I actually decided to fight for my religion. At 18 years old, I finally understood the importance of literally fighting against ignorance.
Unfortunately that wasn't the last time I experienced anti-semitism nor was it the last time that I had to fight for being raised Jewish. When I moved to Austin, I became friends with several coworkers, one whose boyfriend had the same birthday as me. At his house, she was introducing me to their friends as "my Jewish friend Matt" which should have been a red flag.
One of her friends decided to call me a "kike" which is a derogatory term for a Jewish individual. In that moment, I lost my cool and slammed his face into the kitchen counter. I was immediately jumped by three people who saw me attack their friend.
I bring up these moments from my life because I want express to all of you that anti-semitism is very real. It may not be as openly apparent as racism or sexism, but there are people who are still holding these terrifying and antiquated beliefs even today.
So understandably when I saw the story on Zahra Schreiber's Instagram posts, I was both horrified and furious.
In the first image, she has the Parteiadler, which is a swastika inside the Victor's Wreath being clenched by an eagle. It's a distinctly Nazi image, used as the formal symbol of the Nazi party. She tries to defend the symbol by saying "the swastika means prosperity and luck. It was around way before hitler turned it into an icon. Take it how you want I could careless. This is too funny."
In later comments, she shifts blame onto us for being offended, saying "people need to lighten up and get the sticks outta their ass." Because we should have a sense of humor about Nazi imagery and not take things so seriously.
Thanks to the Cageside Seats community, I became aware of a second image and immediately tweeted at WWE COO Triple H.
@TripleH any comment regarding this image that was found on @WWENXT female Zahra Schreiber's instagram? pic.twitter.com/fNAHtjidVd— Matthew Roth (@MattRoth512) August 29, 2015
There should be no way to view this as anything other than hate speech. So you can understand my shock when I was told that this is art.
Don't get me wrong, it is art in the very literal sense in that someone drew a My Little Pony dressed as Adolph Hitler wearing an armband with a Swastika on it. So yes, this is a piece of art. But this isn't art. This drawing is an attempt at making the fact that the Nazi party exterminated over 12,000,000 people cute.
I was shocked that in comment section for the story, there were people trying to defend her views, either restating the Hindu imagery argument or saying she has the right to "free speech." Yes, she has the right to share her views. She doesn't have the right to employment nor does she have freedom from consequences.
Understand that you have the right to have whatever beliefs you want, even if they are dangerous, antiquated, and horrifying. But also know that these symbols mean something more to people like me. They represent the absolute worst time in human history when there was an attempt to wipe out an entire group of people from existence.
And I'll be damned if I don't fight to make sure that doesn't happen again.