Early Friday morning, Trayon White Sr., a member of the Washington D.C. City Council, posted a video to his Facebook page which suggested that the Rothschild family was to blame for the bad weather. According to Newsweek, White stated that the snow in D.C. was caused by “the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”
The Rothschild conspiracy theory dates back to 18th century European banker Mayer Amschel Rothschild, who created a wealthy dynasty in what is modern-day Frankfurt. The Rothschild family has been subject to claims that they–and other well-off Jewish families–are manipulating world events to their advantage. The theory falls under the “Jews run the world” category of anti-Semitic allegations.
Local Jewish community leaders reacted to the White’s comments over the weekend. According to The Washington Post, Rabbi Daniel Zemel of Temple Micah in D.C. stated that White’s behavior is “unacceptable,” and anti-Semitic remarks by any public official “diminish what America is about and adds to the oppressive feeling going on in the country right now.” The Anti-Defamation League reported that anti-Semitic incidents in D.C. have more than doubled since 2015. Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) saw the incident as an opportunity to educate public officials on the “long history of anti-Semitism.” According to the Post, JUFJ endorsed White’s run for City Council in 2016.
We spoke with @trayonwhite tonight about how his comments played into the long history of antisemitism. We look forward to working with him toward deeper understanding of antisemitism and toward our collective liberation.
— JUFJ (@jufj) March 19, 2018
Initially, the councilman declined The Washington Post’s request for comment. In a series of text messages, White stated that he was surprised that the video was misinterpreted as anti-Semitic, adding that the video “says what it says.” Four hours after the Post published its story on Sunday, White released a public apology on Twitter, also written through a series of texts. White also took down the video from his Facebook page.
I really do apologize. I work very closely with the Jewish community and never want to offend anyone, especially with Anti-Semitic remarks. pic.twitter.com/TvUgf55UeF
— Trayon White (@trayonwhite) March 19, 2018
While the apology has saved White from a forced resignation from the D.C. City Council, many wonder if this incident indicates more about the state of affairs for the American Jewish community. White’s initial belief in the Rothschild conspiracy theory suggests underlying ignorance that has fueled hate crimes. Along with these conspiracies, Jews in the U.S. experienced their worst year for modern anti-Semitism in 2017, according to CNN. Other incidents include the defacing of Holocaust memorials, bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, and vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries.
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