America is no stranger to senseless shootings.
That being the sad case, it is easy to place the targeting of two Kansas City-area Jewish institutions into that “senseless” category and thereby eventually put it out of mind.
Besides, some of the shooting sprees across the US in recent years have exacted far greater tolls than the three lives taken in Overland Park, Kansas, on the eve of Passover.
But this shooting was not “senseless.” The targets were not random and the killer came to do his evil deed with a brazenly touted motive. “Heil Hitler,” he hollered This was a crime directed against Jews and committed in the name of the most unspeakable barbarity ever unleashed on the Jewish people. If this was not a hate crime, it is impossible to define what one is.
The Jewish community in Kansas and American Jews throughout the country were given bitter food for thought this Passover. One of the most meaningful passages in the Haggada holds that “in every generation, they rise upon us to destroy us.” This is an indisputable fact of Jewish existence at all times and in all places – the American Midwest included.
US Jews may not wish to acknowledge that reality.
But the ancient, noxious hate against the people of Israel still exists in some places.
It is difficult to confront such truths in places where Jews enjoy uprecedented liberty and freedom and have made their mark in every facet of the American landscape.
Perhaps because of that sense of security and well being, an increasing proportion of the American Jewish population prefers to make believe that they are immune to the Jewish lot of yesteryear and of other lands. That’s why the Kansas shooting can’t be seen as an isolated incident and why it is far from simple to compare the Kansas atrocity to the Toulouse one of two years ago. The French Jewish community is vastly different from the American and the Toulouse shooter was an Arab and a jihadist. His American counterpart was a Ku Klux Klan activist, apparently impelled by the more old-style anti-Semitism, even though he too railed against “the Zionists.”
But the bottom line is the same. In both cases the aim was to kill Jews for the crime of being Jews (although in Kansas this did not quite go to plan).
In both cases the shootings cannot be divorced from other acts of violence and most of all from words. The World Wide Web makes the most virulent anti-Semitic invective easier to disseminate and more incendiary than ever.
The Web is a scary space. The amount and degree of incitement against Jews and the Jewish state boggles the mind. Ignoring it is no answer.
There is no denying that anti-Semitism flourishes.
A teacher at the prestigious North London Collegiate School recently warned a Jewish pupil that she would send her to “one your gas chambers” for jumping the queue at the dining hall.
In that vein but immeasurably higher on the viciousness scale was an article the Ukrainian Misto Vecherniye (“Evening City”) newspaper printed in the past week. In apparent earnestness, its author warns readers to beware of the Jewish ritual of slaughtering Christian children to bake Passover matzot with their blood. The feature then rehashed the infamous 1913 Beilis blood libel in Kiev. This is not the first time this has happened in the Ukrainian media. In 2006, the Personnel Plus magazine saw fit to revive the same Beilis blood libel.
Examples abound from many countries. The tone may differ from country to country but Judeophobes seethe with hostility, irrespective of their argumentations and pretexts.
As the tragedy in Kansas demonstrates, no Jewish community is immune. Today, we stand together in solidarity with our Jewish family in the US in mourning the dead and wounded, and in outrage that the evil history of anti-Semitism is still being written.