I opened Twitter on my phone and began methodically checking each NWSL team’s account. Then I moved to supporters’ groups. Then my favorite players. I repeated the process on Instagram. Between the postseason ‘thank yous’ and championship excitement was a disturbing void. A quiet, lonely, and eerie space where I sat with the words “when they come for the Jews, be prepared to stand alone.”
As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, I was always told that we should speak up for the persecuted, defend the underdogs, and stand in solidarity with those being treated unfairly. I was also told that when they come for the Jews, I shouldn’t expect the same in return.
I assumed my family was (rightfully) jaded from their life experiences. Certainly, that would never happen today. And of course, it could never happen in the diverse, educated, and vocal women’s soccer community. A community I was initially attracted to because of its remarkable dedication to a sense of safety and belonging among its fanbase.
I worked for the Chicago Red Stars from January 2020 to November 2021, and continue to follow the league as a fan. I’ve watched and participated in the women’s soccer community’s fervent efforts to unite, educate, uplift, and defend. I’ve proudly cheered as they’ve resolutely stood on the right side of history time and time again. I’ve been inspired by the community’s ability to rally around BLM, Stop Asian Hate, LGBTQIA rights, and reproductive rights.
But now? There are flyers being passed out stating that every aspect of the COVID agenda is Jewish. There are antisemitic banners being flown in LA over the 405 asking people to “honk if you know Kanye is right about the Jews.” And much to the pleasure of the group of people throwing the Nazi salute on the overpass, cars slowed. Cars honked.
While all of this was happening, the NWSL, its teams, its supporters’ groups, and its athletes remained silent.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen college campuses defaced with antisemitic messages, Jews get beaten in the streets of New York, Jews being attacked while eating out at a restaurant, a synagogue held hostage. I’ve walked my daughter past armed officers just to attend high holiday services. I’ve seen the far left use the Israeli/Palestinian conflict as a guise for hating Jews in America, I’ve seen the far right plagued with neo-Nazism and white supremacy, and I’ve seen the vast majority of those in between remain silent.
We’re on the precipice of something dangerous. With the Holocaust merely 80 years behind us, Millennials and Gen Z are already showing a shocking lack of Holocaust knowledge. According to a 50-state survey conducted in 2020, over 1 in 10 respondents hadn’t heard the word “Holocaust” before. Perhaps more worrisome is that 11% of respondents believe Jews caused the Holocaust, with the number reaching 19% in New York (which is the state with the largest Jewish population).
Now is the time to educate yourself, speak up, show solidarity, check in on your Jewish friends. To make some semblance of an effort to be on the right side of history this time, too.
I want to challenge the league, the teams, the players, the supporters’ groups, and even the individual fans to look inward and ask yourselves: If you’ve chosen to stand up against hate in the past…why not now?
The Jewish American experience is a lonely one. Apparently being a Jewish NWSL fan is, too.