Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, has been spouting conspiracy theories and antisemitic rants. Adidas, Gap, Balenciaga, and the talent agency CAA have cut ties with him. His comments have inspired other hateful behavior towards Jewish people. A local group hung banners off the 405 freeway praising his comments last weekend, while antisemitic flyers were posted in Beverly Hills and other westside neighborhoods.
Steve Leder, senior rabbi of the Wilshire Boulevard Temple, drove under those banners last weekend, and says his initial shock and disbelief turned into anger.
“Everyone up there was masked, which to me is a cowardly thing. If this is what you really believe, show your face. Stand up. Let's have a conversation about it. … I don't believe the motivation of haters is ever pure, is ever productive,” he says.
Last year, more than 2,700 cases of assault, harassment, and vandalism were documented nationwide by the Anti-Defamation League. That’s an all-time high since the institution started tracking incidents in 1979. Ye’s comments have spread on social media, which Leder describes as an accelerant.
“[Social media] allows us to remove ourselves from each other and to forget our common humanity, to forget that if you prick us, we all bleed. Am I alarmed? Yes.”
However, Leder points out that people who intend to cause social divides end up uniting people.
“I have seen Ye’s comments galvanize a community of people who believe in goodness and hope and love and understanding, in a way they were not galvanized before. … He has moved many of us past our apathy or desire to be spectators. … He has taught us a great deal by negative example.”
Now it’s time to take Ye out of the spotlight, and start talking about the importance of empathy and conversation, Leder emphasizes.
He adds, “We all have a sphere of influence. … It may be around our dinner table with our family. It may be in the classroom. … It may be on our social media platforms. We all have a part of the garden that we can reach, that we can tend. And our job is to … root out hate speech, and root out ancient, evil tropes. We all have a light of goodness and love that we can shine. Shine your light in whatever darkness you can.”