Cover photo: “Impromptu Shabbat service … in front of Tree of Life” 1
Webster’s Dictionary defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Xenophobia can be referred to in many different contexts and does not target one group, culture, minority, race, sex, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation. However, xenophobia is often associated with racism, homophobia, or general intolerance.
Throughout the Cold War, Stalin perpetuated a rhetoric of xenophobia in part because of his paranoia, but also to create an “Other.” By creating an “Other”, he created an enemy. Furthermore, Stalin gained more power and unified the Soviet Union against some other entity. In Vera Dunham’s analysis of the “The Big Deal”, she points to the vulnerability of the Soviet Union to show why Stalin used xenophobic arguments in his speeches. Stalin “Otherized” the West and Jews. The West was perceived as dangerous and uncaring because of the free culture surrounding music, youths, public speech, and protests. Stalin wanted to ensure that that type of culture would never take root in the Soviet Union, so he publicly denounced it and made it seem as if it were strange and something to be feared.
However, Stalin didn’t just stop with the West. He also promoted anti-semitism as being “cosmopolitanism” and reinforced the hatred of Jewish culture and Jewish people already present in the Soviet Union. Due to his vulnerability, Stalin used this hateful, horrific speech. This is not an uncommon trend, nor is Stalin’s use an isolated event. Jews have been persecuted for centuries in many different places and by many different people. Anti-Semitism still persists today. On October 27, 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and killed 11 people while shouting “all Jews must die.” The same hateful rhetoric Stalin used is in use today in the United States. Hate speech cannot be allowed to continue, and xenophobic/ anti-Semitic statements cannot be allowed to go unnoticed.