This week, People of the Pod speaks with director Andrew Goldberg, whose new documentary, “Viral: Anti-Semitism in Four Mutations,” takes viewers through four countries – the United States, Great Britain, France, and Hungary – to see how this timeless hatred is taking different forms around the world.
In the film, which hit theaters on February 21, Goldberg interviews victims, witnesses, anti-Semites and high-profile figures including former US president Bill Clinton, former UK prime minister Tony Blair, anti-Semitism expert Deborah Lipstadt and American Jewish Committee (AJC) Europe director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen.
Weekly podcast People of the Pod is produced by the AJC in cooperation with The Times of Israel, and examines current events through a Jewish lens.
Speaking with co-host Manya Brachear Pashman, Goldberg notes an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents around the US following the 2016 presidential elections. With Americans suddenly becoming more aware of the preponderance of such incidents at home – helped along by a well-known series of bomb threats against US Jewish institutions that actually turned out to be bogus – Goldberg says he immediately felt the need to document the situation on film.
Goldberg says that he was of course aware of anti-Semitism in other countries, but still thought the focus of the film would be on the US. Then, he says, as he did more and more research, it became clear that worldwide anti-Semitism presented an additional urgency.
It was then that he decided to expand the film to look at four different situations: the far right in the US; the far left in the UK; Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orban launched a public campaign against the globalist positions of billionaire George Soros that some say has anti-Semitic undertones; and France, where radical Islamists have perpetrated violent and deadly attacks against Jews, which Goldberg quotes unofficial tallies as putting at up to 3,000 attacks a year.
Goldberg tells Pashman that as he grew up in the 1970s, with the horrors of the Holocaust still resonating with a closeness no longer present today, the reality of anti-Semitism was never far from his mind.
“I understood that Jews were absolutely despised,” Goldberg says, adding that as he began making films about Jewish subjects, he realized that anti-Semitism “is widespread. There’s anti-Semitism where there are Jews, there’s anti-Semitism where there are not Jews, there’s anti-Semitism among people who are friends with Jews.”
Taking listeners from the streets of Egypt, to the government campaign in Hungary, to internet forums where people can connect and interact over their shared hatred, to the UK Labour Party’s history of anti-Israel sentiment going back to 2008, Goldberg details a variety of ways in which anti-Semitism manifests itself today. He stops short, though, of delving deeply into the different sources of this hatred, something that he says is intentional.
Contrasting anti-Semitism with other contemporary bigotry such as anti-black racism in the US, homophobia and misogyny, which he says are rampant problems today, Goldberg says that there is one additional facet to Jew hatred:
“No one is asking why I need to get into the fact of why Trans people are being murdered right now, are being beaten up… We talk about double standards in anti-Semitism, and I don’t want to say this is anti-Semitism, but it’s almost a reflex that people feel that anything that has to do with Jews, with anti-Semitism, with Israel, has to be held to some second order of scrutiny, and I found that a little bit frustrating,” he says.
Tune into the podcast for the whole conversation, as well as a breakdown of what’s important to Israeli voters by Times of Israel senior analyst Haviv Rettig Gur, just ahead of Monday’s landmark third elections in a single year.
Also this week, The Times of Israel takes to the desert, where in the arid Arava Valley 300 women walked 24 kilometers (15 miles) in 24 hours to call attention to “chained women,” whose husbands are unable or unwilling to provide a get, or writ of religious divorce. Unable to move on with their lives, remarry, engage in relationships, or have children, these women have few options in Israel, where marriage and divorce are overseen exclusively by the Chief Rabbinate.
Times of Israel Jewish world and Archaeology editor Amanda Borschel-Dan documents the struggle of these chained women as they seek the right to freedom.