Reformed neo-Nazi fears ‘rising tide of hate’ in United States

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This week marks a grim anniversary in our country. One year since the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in U.S. history.

Eleven people were killed last October when a gunman opened fire during services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Since that attack, the Department of Homeland Security has begun addressing white supremacist terrorism as a major security threat.

Christian Picciolini is a former white supremacist.

“I was 14 years old when I got recruited in 1987,” he said.

He left the hate groups behind decades ago and now spends his days helping others get out.

“White supremacy is very alive and well,” he said. “Hate is not a hoax. This is getting bigger. The problem is getting more widespread and worse. It’s going to be deadlier.”

The FBI reports, nationally, hate crimes were up 17% last year. Anti-Semitic hate crimes were up an astonishing 37%. And that increase coincides with a drop-in awareness. One study found nearly half of U.S. millennials don’t know much about the holocaust. 66% couldn’t identify Auschwitz.

Lonnie Nasatir is the president of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.

“As the Jewish community, we are very, very concerned about the increasing rates of anti-Semitism of incidents and all the rest,” Nasatir said. “But we also look at it as a sort of microcosm of society’s ills and what is happening in terms of all marginalized groups and being impacted by this spread of hate and intolerance.”

One year after the Tree of Life attack, a study just released by the American Jewish Committee found nearly one in three Jews sometimes hide their faith.

On a positive note, there’s a program under development right now encouraging students to develop anti-hate messaging and a big push nationally to make Holocaust education mandatory in schools.

That’s only the case in 11 states right now and that list includes Illinois.

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