Fight the hate together

Part of the problem is that Jews are targeted for attacks from many different directions

A Jewish man walks near the Monsey antisemitic attack, New York, December 2019. (photo credit: REUTERS/EDUARDO MUNOZ)
A Jewish man walks near the Monsey antisemitic attack, New York, December 2019.
These are frightening times for the Jewish community in the United States. Every day of Hanukkah brought news of another antisemitic incident. The horrific attack in which a machete-wielding man hacked at Jews on Saturday night in the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, New York, left five people wounded and many more traumatized. It was the latest in a string of attacks in places once considered safe for Jews, including Brooklyn, Crown Heights, Williamsburg, Manhattan and New Jersey.
Just last week, a Los Angeles synagogue was seriously vandalized and its Torah scrolls desecrated. The community is largely comprised of Jews who were forced to flee Iran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
When residents of St. Albans, Vermont, were asked about posters that had been placed on trees and utility poles last week declaring, “It’s okay to be antisemitic,” they answered politely that the fliers were “unfortunate” and “disappointing.” These are not the right words. What should be said out loud and unequivocally is “unacceptable.”
A police officer said the posters had “antisemitic undertones.” They did not. They were antisemitic, period.
What starts with words rarely ends there. As Israelis well know from Palestinian incitement and hatred, hateful and inciting words prepare the ground and legitimize future physical attacks and murder.
That Jews in New York say they are scared to go out dressed in their identifiable hats and clothing is appalling. Since December 13, there have been eight reported incidents in New York alone in which Jews – men, women and children – have been punched or thrown to the ground simply for being Jews. If it is not stopped, this will grow in numbers and severity.
Even cases in which the perpetrator might be considered to be psychologically disturbed cannot be ignored. They do not occur in a vacuum but in an atmosphere that encourages copycat attacks.
Many in the Jewish community – and not only the Jewish community – until now seem to have considered these attacks to be something sporadic and incidental, but looking at the increasing frequency and seriousness we can piece together a broader and much more disturbing picture.
The shooting incident at the kosher New Jersey supermarket on December 10 – in which two ultra-Orthodox Jews were killed along with a non-Jewish employee and a policeman – was another dreadful reminder that the situation is growing out of control.
The fatal attacks on worshipers in synagogues in Pittsburgh last year and Poway in April this year are a tragic evidence of the extent and dangers of the phenomenon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered a thorough investigation and New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted, “Hate doesn’t have a home in our city,” promising an increased police presence in Jewish neighborhoods and adding, “Anyone who terrorizes our Jewish community WILL face justice.”
We welcome their support and action.
Part of the problem is that Jews are targeted for attacks from many different directions: the far Right, Islamists and, in the case of the New Jersey attack, members of a marginal community of so-called Black Hebrews. The anti-Zionism and anti-Israel sentiment of the radical Left also fosters hatred. The BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement is another modern expression of antisemitism, singling out Jewish and Israeli businesses.
The wave of antisemitic attacks in the US has grabbed the headlines recently, but there have been incidents throughout Europe, the UK, Australia and elsewhere.
Several Israeli politicians condemned the attacks and urged the Jews to make aliyah. There are many reasons for Jews to move to Israel but it shouldn’t be done out of fear. And Jews shouldn’t have to live in fear wherever they are.
As Moroccan publisher Ahmed Charai wrote in an opinion piece in this paper earlier this month, “Antisemitism is everyone’s problem.” He called for cooperation in fighting hatred, writing, “Arabs and Jews simply must stop hating each other so that together we can face the truly dangerous people who hate us both.”
Zero tolerance for antisemitism cannot be a meaningless slogan. This kind of hatred does not bode well for society as a whole. The Jews will not be the only victims.