November 18, 2019

‘Never Again Is Now’ Sounds the Alarm on Rising Anti-Semitism

Evelyn Markus, left, and Rosa Zeegers Photo courtesy of Evelyn Markus

Evelyn Markus, the daughter of Dutch Holocaust survivors, moved to Los Angeles in 2006 with her partner Rosa Zeegers. She no longer felt safe in Amsterdam amid escalating anti-Semitic attacks on the streets, at sports stadiums and after finding a pink Star of David graffitied on her front door. With Jews increasingly under siege all over Europe and a rise in anti-Semitism in the United States, Markus is sounding the alarm with the chilling documentary titled “Never Again Is Now.” 

In the film, Markus, a psychologist and conflict-resolution coach turned activist who founded the nonprofit Network on Anti-Semitism, combines the story of her parents’ Holocaust survival with a history of the rise in hatred toward Jews from the political left, right and Muslim religious extremists. She interviews politicians, experts and Jews who feel scared and threatened as they face the possibility of leaving their homes.

“I wanted to tell the story of the Jews’ current exodus from Europe and why they don’t feel safe anymore,” Markus told the Journal. “I didn’t make the film to tell the story of my parents, but my fear of being in Europe and my anger over having to leave has a lot to do with what happened to them,” she said. “My parents assured me that the Holocaust was a unique event in history that could never happen again. But 75 years later, here we are again.”

After her mother’s death in 2014, Markus discovered a letter from her mother to her father detailing how she survived thanks to the American troops who liberated a concentration camp-bound train in April 1945. Markus agreed to tell that story as long as she could speak about the current crisis. “If we want to stop anti-Semitism, we have to do it at an early stage,” she said. “There’s starting to be more awareness now, but progress is too slow.”

While Markus feels safe in the United States despite the increase in anti-Semitism, and feels free to display a Star of David, mezuzah or an Israeli flag, that’s not the case on many college campuses in light of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. “In the U.S., we’re at the beginning stages of why I left Europe.” 

“My parents assured me that the Holocaust was a unique event in history that could never happen again. But 75 years later, here we are again.” — Evelyn Markus

While she applauds that “this government is very supportive of Israel, moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, recognizing the Golan Heights as Israeli territory and seems to have a pro-Jewish impact on the government of Saudi Arabia,” Markus is worried by “a very angry tone of voice that’s encouraging hatred” coming from the  U.S. leadership, one “that could trigger feelings of hate to come out,” she said.

She proposes several ways to avert disaster. “White supremacist anti-Semitism is driven by strong anti-immigrant feelings and conspiracy theories about ‘the Jews’ driving immigration,” she said. “Education programs like A Classroom of Difference of the Anti-Defamation League are, in my mind, an important part of a solution. It educates children at a young age about bias and the fallacy of conspiracy theories.” 

Noting that increases in immigration and anti-immigrant feelings lead to a rise in hate and blaming of Jews, especially in a declining economy, she suggests increasing anti-bias education programs. She also proposes supporting Muslim reformers “who want to modernize their religion in a way similar to liberal Judaism or liberal Christianity.”

As for the far-left anti-Semitism on U.S. college campuses, “It is driven by a passionate solidarity with the Palestinians and their rights,” she said. “Maybe it would help to better inform people at the far left about the line between legitimate criticism of Israel and when it becomes anti-Semitic,” she added, citing a United Nations report. “Criticism of Israel is fine as long as it doesn’t use demonization, a double standard or delegitimization of the Jewish state.”

Markus, who was not raised religious, became more so when she was 19 and “spent two years involved in Jewish learning, one of them in Israel. Then I fell in love with a woman and couldn’t combine Orthodox Judaism with being a lesbian, in my mind,” she said. “But I always kept an admiration for Jewish tradition, culture and religious texts because there’s so much wisdom in there.”

She met Zeegers, also the daughter of Holocaust survivors, through mutual friends in 1982 at a party celebrating Zeegers’ wedding. A year later Zeegers divorced after coming out as a lesbian, and she and Markus married in 2007. (Zeegers’ ex-husband also came out as gay.) They belong to the Temple of the Arts in Beverly Hills.

Coinciding with the release of the documentary, Markus has launched a website at joinneveragainisnow.com, where she will blog biweekly and people can share their thoughts via social media. “Nobody has the answer on how to stop anti-Semitism. I invite people who care about the subject to share their ideas and help to develop better answers to the problem,” she said.

Markus wants people to take the rise global of anti-Semitism seriously and “look at what you as an individual can do to stop it. Then you help the Jews and society,” she said. “I would urge individuals to stand up and become active in a way that suits their strengths, to do something.”

“Never Again is Now” is streaming now on Amazon Prime.