Three 8th grade students at a school in Chicago were recently suspended after bullying one of their classmates, who is Jewish. According to NBC 5 Chicago and the Chicago Sun-Times, the bullying came to the attention of the school after the boy was invited to join an online game group by the students. The game group was called the “Jew Incinerator” and posted a message on the game site that identified the group as racist. The message proclaimed that their goal was to “put all Jews into an army camp until disposed of” and one message said “throw Jews into ovens for a cause.”

The boy had been the subject of other anti-Semitic bullying over several months; he was approached by students who showed him pictures of ovens and told to get into the oven. The boy was also called half-human, told to change into striped pajamas and told to go into the shower. Now the boy’s siblings do not feel safe going to school and one is afraid to tell anyone he is Jewish. In addition to suspending the students, the school arranged a trip to the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and held forums on bullying. However, some parents complain that the school district is not taking enough action.

Anti-Semitism and hate crimes

The boy’s mother is angry that the school has referred to the incident as bullying instead of as a racist and anti-Semitic attack on her son. Anti-Semitism is the prejudice and hatred of Jews as a religious and ethnic group and may be manifested to its victims in different ways. These may include expressions of hate, discrimination against groups of Jews or individuals, and violent attacks organized by larger groups of people.

When people are extensively bullied for their religious, sexual or racial standings, a hate crime may eventually be committed. These crimes typically involve violence and can have severe emotional, psychological and physical consequences for their victims.

Hate crime study

According to the National Association of Social Workers, a study performed in 1994 by the National Institute Against Prejudice and Violence found that participants experienced several emotional reactions in the aftermath of a hate crime.

A Jewish participant who had a swastika painted on his mailbox reported that he felt intense anger towards his perpetrators. Approximately 68 percent of those involved in this study stated that anger was their most prevalent emotion and 51 percent of participants reported that they were afraid that their families or themselves would be physically injured due to a hate crime.

Bullying that involves racial hate can be especially traumatic on victims. Parents who find that their children are victims of bullying should consider working with an attorney who can hold their child’s bullies responsible for their actions.