How Would You React If Confronted With Anti-Semitism?

PHOTO How will bystanders react when these actors posing as a young Jewish couple are faced with anti-Semitism remarks in the latest What Would You Do scenario?ABC News
How will bystanders react when these actors posing as a young Jewish couple are faced with anti-Semitic remarks in the latest What Would You Do scenario?

At a popular bakery in Bloomfield, N. J., people lining up for delicious treats were faced with quite a shock when a young Jewish couple walked in and spoke with a man behind the counter.

The couple asked the clerk if they could post a flyer for a job fair at their temple. Bystanders were stunned when the clerk not only refused the couple's request, but then continued to rant on how Jews were responsible for our failing economy.

"You Jews are all alike," he taunted. "You want to control the banks so you can get people's money."

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) conducted an audit on the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2009. According to their findings, a total of 1,211 incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions occurred that year, in the U.S. alone.

What the customers at this bakery don't know is that the clerk and the young Jewish couple are actors, the bakery is rigged with hidden cameras and "What Would You Do?" is exploring how people react when confronted with anti-Jewish stereotypes.

Click here to watch the latest episode of "What Would You Do?"

"This is what I think of the Jews coming in to the neighborhood to steal all the jobs," lamented the clerk as he ripped up the flyer.

Customers, who have asked not to be named, appeared incredulous, but most did nothing until one Jewish man broke his silence and calmly tried to tone down the clerk.

"I would just back off a little bit. Let these guys go. You're done," he said.

When his efforts failed and the clerk continued berating them, the customer lashed out in frustration.

"All your frickin' ideas keep to yourself and talk to your friends about it. Someone is trying to give you a flyer. I'm trying to give you a little sense. I am telling you, you are wrong ... you're saying some hurtful s**t to these people," he said.

Others spoke up too. A pastor walked out of the bakery in protest, but not before telling the clerk that the Jews are "our brothers and sisters ... we are all human beings." ABC News' John Quinones asked him why he reacted the way he did.

"I'm a Christian pastor and I feel very, very firmly about this," he said. "I'll speak anytime I see someone discriminated against."

The clerk continued to test customers' limits as he threw out another jab, citing Bernie Madoff as an example of how Jewish people take advantage of others. Customers' emotions quickly rose and the situation became heated.

"You're so offensive, it's unbelievable," shouted one woman.

"You don't even realize what you're saying," reprimanded another customer. "That's the sad part. If you knew what you were saying you wouldn't be saying it."

Later, another female patron became so infuriated with the clerk, that she started relentlessly screaming at him. With camera crew in tow, Quinones approached her afterwards, revealed it was all a setup and asked her why she reacted so forcefully.

"He was really, I think humiliating [the Jewish couple]," the woman said. "I thought they were acting pretty decent."

As it turned out, non-Jewish patrons seemed to express more anger over the situation than the Jewish ones. Psychologist Carrie Keating called it the "black sheep phenomena."

"What's fascinating about this bakery is that the whole room was transformed by the clerk's outrageous behavior," she explained. "What changed is that everyone started thinking about what was their religious group."

Keating explained that we tend to be harder on members of our own social or religious group when they bring down the rest of the group.

"It's even worse when one of us makes our group look bad by being so biased, so prejudiced, so anti-Semitic and we punish our group members when the deviate from our value system," she explained.

A recent ADL survey found that on average, three anti-Jewish incidents take place each day. They also reported that 30 million Americans hold anti-Semitic views, including some well known public figures.

Mel Gibson was severely chastised after spewing out a barrage of anti-Jewish remarks during his widely publicized DUI arrest in 2006. Veteran White House reporter Helen Thomas was pressured into retirement last summer after making anti-Semitic comments, and just last month, CNN anchor Rick Sanchez was fired for his anti-Semitic comments.

After our day of shooting, it is encouraging to note that every time we staged this scenario with our actors, someone always either spoke up or walked out in protest of the clerk's anti-Jewish remarks.

Psychologist Keating said studies show that voicing opposition to prejudicial behavior can make others rethink their actions and "in many cases being a little quieter about it the next time around."

The Anti-Defamation League offers a guide on how to confront Anti-Semitism that includes myths and facts about the Jewish faith where these slurs and insults often are rooted. Click here to download the guide from the ADL's website.