Ariana Mentzel (34), a Democrat from Beverly Hills, MI, leads college students in conversations about anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the Detroit Center for Civil Discourse. Named one of Detroit Jewish News’ “36 under 36,” she serves as the vice president Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Mentzel also served as former Oakland County Chair of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus. She runs a preschool Shabbat program at her temple.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about rising anti-Semitism in this country?
I’m so concerned that I sometimes feel guilty for having children in this cruel world. It makes me worry about what kind of future they’re going to live in. I’ve been concerned about it from a young age, but I’m very emotional about it now because it’s more obvious. It has cost people’s lives and is thriving because people can connect faster through the internet. My biggest concern is misinformation—people not learning from history.
Do you think that the problem is being addressed adequately by the presidential candidates?
There’s so much for the candidates to cover, and every issue is important. I’m not so self-centered as to think that all they need to talk about is anti-Semitism. I think most candidates have addressed it with a quick answer or correspondence with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League or American Jewish Committee. Bernie Sanders has fallen short on addressing leftist anti-Semitism or really understanding why some Jews feel that there is anti-Semitism on the left.
What do you think is fueling the rise of anti-Semitism in this country?
A lack of education, a lack of understanding biases and prejudices. Many of us are among the privileged economically, with education, access to health care, job security, so when someone makes jokes about Jews with money, it’s believable. And when they make jokes about Jews with influence in politics and media, it’s believable. And those little seeds of bias grow into anti-Semitic ideology. I’m sure a lot of it starts at home with people just being taught to hate. But it should be condemned, not legitimized by the president.
Some people blame Trump’s rhetoric for the rise in anti-Semitism. Others blame the far left, exemplified by the BDS movement and “the squad” in Congress. What do you think?
It’s coming from both sides. I can’t say equally; the anti-Semitism on the right is more detrimental to human life. I think Trump has definitely emboldened the anti-Semites and neo-Nazis who have actually committed crimes in recent years. BDS has been around for a really long time, before President Trump. But because Trump has used code words for Jews in Congress and has problematic Jews on his own staff, it adds more fuel to the leftist fire of saying that being anti-Israel is never anti-Semitic.