What CNNs Dana Bash learned reporting on the rise in antisemitism – Forward

Posted By on August 22, 2022

Dana Bash, CNNs chief political correspondent and co-anchor of State of the Union. Photo by YouTube/Screenshot

By Jacob KornbluhAugust 21, 2022

When Dana Bash was in her early 20s, her grandfather, Frank Weinman, took her on a family trip through his childhood towns in Vienna, Hungary and Slovakia along with a Nazi ghetto in Czechoslovakia to give them an up-close perspective of the horrors of the Holocaust and the lessons to be learned. Three decades later, now a prominent anchor and the chief political correspondent at CNN, Bash is taking a lead role in amplifying those teachings amid a dramatic rise in antisemitic violence across the U.S.

In the CNN documentary Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America, set to air Sunday evening and available on demand beginning Monday, Bash visits various Jewish communities still reeling from recent attacks, including Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, and the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California. She also spoke with Ruth Steinfeld, who survived a Nazi concentration camp after being taken to safety by a French organization hiding Jewish children, who said she sees the same kind of hate bubbling up in recent years.

In an interview, Bash said she was honored when asked to do the project for the network, but was also sad that it was even necessary. The producer of the CNN documentary, Melissa Dunst Lipman, pitched the idea following the increased attacks and the hostage standoff in Colleyville. The numbers just made it, unfortunately, very newsworthy, Bash said.

In the opening part of the documentary, Paul Abbate, the deputy director of the FBI, confirms that the threat level against the Jewish community in the U.S. is at historic levels, higher than it is toward people of other religions. The Anti-Defamation League tallied in 2021 the highest number of antisemitic incidents since it started tabulating antisemitism in 1979.

I honestly didnt realize how much hate was zeroing in on Jews, Bash said.

Bash, who is Jewish, said that her recent work fits the sense of history and the sense of a family growing up with grandparents who escaped the Nazis. A week after her mother was born, her grandmother learned that her entire family had been killed by the Nazis. Her grandfather told her stories about how the gypsies helped them get across the mountains to Hungary. Very intuitively, I knew that it was severe antisemitism that upended and changed the trajectory of my family, she said.

Judaism has always been part of my life, Bash said. She said one of her vivid memories growing up was going to services on Friday nights and having Shabbat dinner with her parents, Stuart and Frances Schwartz. She went to the Reform movements Camp Harlam in Kunkletown, Pennsylvania, and was bat mitzvahed at Temple Beth Or in New Jersey. Now a member of Temple Micah, a Reform synagogue in D.C., Bash displays a mezuzah at the doorway of her residence.

In an op-ed published on Friday, Bash shared a conversation she had with her 10-year-old son Jonah last Hanukkah in which he asked her to wear a necklace with the Star of David to proudly display her Judaism.

Bash said the feedback she received after publishing the essay including emails from strangers was highly positive. She got more reaction to it than almost anything shes ever done, she said. I have gotten literally no hate mail. Its all been positive. Two people who emailed her said that after reading the story they have committed to wearing the Star of David necklace they kept in their drawer.

Im speechless at the kind of response that Im getting to this, she said.

Bash said she took away that, while Jews have stayed quiet as a defense mechanism to avoid drawing attention and persecution for thousands of years, the right thing to do is, like my young son knew, innately to wear the Jewish star.

If you are observant and you want to wear a kippah, you wear a kippah, she continued. Keep the mezuzah on your door because its all about education, its all about normalization. And its easier to dispense with tropes and conspiracy theories when youre talking to and talking about real human beings.

As chief political correspondent for CNN, Bash covered the antisemitic tropes that dominated the 2016 election and the reluctance of former President Donald Trump to call them out, including attacks on Jewish journalists.

In the documentary, Brittan Heller, the ADLs first director of technology and society, said she saw the largest spike in antisemitism on social media after journalist Julia Ioffe wrote an extensive profile of Melania Trump. In an appearance on CNN, Trump explicitly declined to condemn his supporters who were viciously attacking Ioffe and her Jewish faith. Heller said antisemites took it as a green light to act.

Bash spoke to the two (unrelated) Greenblatts Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, who has repeatedly criticized Trump; and Jason Greenblatt, a longtime Trump aide and a senior administration official, who said he doesnt buy into the correlation between Trumps rhetoric and the hate that followed but added that he cant explain Trumps doubling down.

In one instance, Jason Greenblatt said that he felt a special responsibility to go to Trump and seek clarification. It was after Trump refused to disavow David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, in an interview with CNN anchor Jake Tapper. I saw what was happening, I guess as a result of Jakes interview, and I said, Look, heres what is happening, here is what David Duke actually said; do you stand for this? He said, Absolutely not and he dictated a condemnation, Greenblatt told Bash, adding that maybe Trump didnt understand what was being asked of him. Its hard to say.

The ADLs Jonathan Greenblatt called Trump a complicated figure, given that hes the first president in history to have a close family connection to the Jewish people. Yet his refusal to call out white supremacists and the both sides remarks after Charlottesville turned it into an issue. If he convincingly, consistently, clearly called out the extremists and the antisemites, it wouldnt even matter what he said at that moment, he said.

Bash said she hasnt faced online antisemitism in recent years. The only time she experienced it, she said, was in 2012 when she made some comments that were misconstrued as biased against former Rep. Ron Paul, who was running in the Republican presidential primary. The attacks against her by Pauls supporters turned antisemitic. Someone created a fake Twitter account with her face on it, using her maiden name, Schwartz, and the Israeli flag behind her.

Bash noted that the dramatic rise in antisemitism occurred last year after Trump left office. She said the COVID-19 pandemic and the dire economic situation have fostered the age-old conspiracies against Jews.

Bash said that it is incumbent on people to call out politicians who make insensitive remarks that are perceived as prejudiced. You have to call it out as a journalist, as an American, as a human. Youve got to do it.

Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America will air Sunday at 9 p.m. ET and will be available on demand beginning Monday.

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What CNNs Dana Bash learned reporting on the rise in antisemitism - Forward

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