Judaism In the Face of Kanye

By Levi Citron (‘26)

Kanye West, also known as Ye, is one of the most famous men on Earth. Through his status as a successful rapper, he has influence in the fashion world, the music industry, and in religious spaces. On the social media platform Twitter he has 40 million followers alone. That is more than two times  the world’s population of Jewish people. On October 6th 2022, Kanye tweeted:“I’m a bit sleepy tonight but when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE The funny thing is I actually can’t be Anti Semitic because black people are actually Jew also You guys have toyed with me and tried to black ball anyone whoever opposes your agenda.”

Kanye’s comments are the continuation of centuries old anti-Semetic tropes. A trope is a long believed harmful stereotype held about a group of people. Jewish people throughout history These tropes include that the Jewish people control the money and media. The idea that Jewish people control the banks is rooted in Jewish money lending in medieval Europe. This was actually caused by a Bible verse being interpreted to forbid Christians from loaning money with interest. Jewish people were restricted in most occupations, except money lending, which no Christian groups were allowed to do. People throughout Western Europe therefore created conspiracy theories about Jews controlling all of the money. Another trope reflected in Kanye’s comments is that the Jewish people are secretly pulling the strings of global society. This myth traces it roots to a pamphlet called “the Protocols of the Elders of Zion” Although this document was not factual and mostly focused on imagined wrongs, it has been reprinted and read by millions, including in the United States.The reason that things like this matter is because these tropes are hurtful; when something goes wrong, Jewish people are used as the scapegoat. And blaming the Jews for all the world’s problems translates to real-world Jewish genocides like the Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms and the Holocaust.

After Kanye’s comments, a waterfall of anti-Semetic posts, comments, and tropes began trending on social media. Days after his post a white supremacist group held signs over a freeway saying “Kanye was right about the Jews”. Even more recently, Saturday Night Live host Dave Chappelle made many anti-Semitic comments in direct response to Kanye’s anti-Semitic social media posts: “Early in my career, I learned there are two words you should never say together, Those words are…’the’ and ‘Jews.’ Never heard someone do good after they said that.”Although the comments can be viewed as condemning Kanye’s comments, they can also be viewed as mocking Jewish people for their very legitimate concern about anti-Semitism. Chappelle’s comments furthered Kanye’s false assertion that Jewish people control the media and that Kanye was correct in believing this.

Kanye’s comments have left me, as a Jewish person, with a feeling of dread. Over the last few years, I have heard a number of anti-Semitic comments from classmates, including jokes about concentration camps and financial control. But being called out and threatened by a popular celebrity feels different and scary. Before I had even read Kanye’s comments, I was hearing defenses for his tweet. In one class, I heard comments like “the teacher isn’t Jewish so we can play Kanye”. I hear people saying “Kanye is my boy”, and I feel as though the anti-Semetic comments are laughed at or ignored as simply something funny Kanye said. I myself find parts of what he said so ludicrous that it could be funny. However, I recognize that his comments are no laughing matter. This is because I understand that when a person of great stature makes such comments, lies spread and become part of mainstream thought, which makes it crucial for everyone to recognize that anti-Semitism no joke.

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