Religion gets left behind in our accepting society

Hollywood has a new swear word, one that “Big Bang Theory” star Mayim Bialik knows all too well, and that word is “Jewish.”

According to CNN, the neuroscientist and actress recently went on a trip to Israel to visit family and friends. Upon her return, she found a storm of anti-Semitic comments and hate mail from the public and critics. 

“I’ve gotten a lot of negative attention for visiting Israel. That’s what’s amazing … simply by going to Israel this summer and saying nothing more than, ‘I’ve gone to Israel,’ I got the same amount of hatred and threats and anti-Semitism for actually making a statement,” Bialik told Fox News.

What’s worse is that what sparked the most hatred towards Bialik was not that she visited Israel, but that she is Jewish.

Bialik is by no means secretive about her Jewish identity. In an interview with CNN, Bialik discussed how in touch she is with her religious roots. With this openness comes vulnerability. Bialik said that she is no stranger to these anti-Semitic comments, but this recent trip to Israel definitely reignited the flame.

But Bialik is not the only victim of anti-Semitism. In the U.S. alone, the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents “counted a total of 912 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. during the 2014 calendar year. This represents a 21 percent increase from the 751 incidents reported during the same period in 2013.”

According to the ADL, in 2014 anti-Semitic incidences occured in 38 states and the District of Columbia. There were 36 cases of assult, 363 incidents of vandalism, and 513 harassment, threats and events reported. These included the fatal shootings at a Jewish community center building and senior residence which claimed three lives on April 13, 2014.

It’s shocking that this is taking place in the U.S., a country that prides itself on recent radical liberal changes.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Windsor in 2013, which overturned Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and redefined marriage to allow same-sex couples the right to marry, society has taken huge strides toward acceptance. 

The transgender community has gained visibility with the emergence of individuals like Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox. Additionally, female empowerment has gained momentum. American Eagle’s “(hashtag) AerieREAL” campaign fought against body shaming and beauty standards. The “Who Needs Feminism?” movement, started by students at Duke University, sought to rid negativity surrounding feminism.

What is puzzling is that tolerance does not extend to religion. It is hypocritical to stress acceptance of particular components of identity and not include religion as one of these acceptable lifestyle choices. 

People are multidimensional; Bialik is Jewish, but she’s also a neuroscientist, an actress and a mother. Her religion is an integral part of who she is, but it is not her sole identifying factor. The same criticism held for homophobia and misogyny should extend to religious intolerance. 


Abby Rinaldi is a freshman majoring in mass communications.