Let’s pray for an end to antisemitism

While I have been a proponent of the Day of Jewish Unity each year, I'm an even more fervent supporter this year because I have been watching the world around me and have seen the hatred pervading it

BDS (photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
(photo credit: WIKIPEDIA)
Never before in my lifetime has antisemitism been so prevalent and palpable. It frightens me because history has taught us where this kind of hatred leads: the expulsion from Spain, pogroms, the Holocaust. Throughout history, hate-filled people have sought to divide and destroy the Jewish people. But we are still here.
On Tuesday, September 24, Acheinu, a branch of Dirshu, the world’s largest Torah organization, will host its annual Day of Jewish Unity. On this day, Jews around the globe – as well as non-Jews who believe in peace and the Jewish people’s right to exist – will unite to pray Psalms 20 and 130, calling for an end to war and hatred.
While I have been a proponent of the Day of Jewish Unity each year, I am an even more fervent supporter this year because I have been watching the world around me and have seen the hatred pervading it.
The hateful rhetoric against Israel – which is often driven by antisemitism – has more adherents than ever. College campuses, which pride themselves as bastions of liberal thought, are churning out a new generation of haters, young adults who are caught in this bubble of intolerance and prevarications. Liars are hosted at university events where they spout their anti-Israel nonsense, while those speaking the truth are silenced. Truth-tellers are not given opportunities to speak. They are ridiculed and even threatened. They are harassed by a sea of professors and students who only pretend to respect all people.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS, on college campuses and in the non-academic world has grown exponentially in recent years. More and more people are calling for a boycott of Israel, claiming to be fighting for human rights. This is clearly a spurious claim, as these same people are not calling for boycotts of Russia or China, where human rights violations actually exist and are incredibly severe. Both Russia and China are infamous for treading on their people’s rights. In fact, for the past three months, protesters have taken to the streets in Hong Kong where they have been met with increasing violence. And outside of Hong Kong, other people in China don’t even know these protests are happening because of China’s tight grasp on the media.
Yet proponents of BDS claim Israel is the main aggressor attacking human rights. Clearly this is not about human rights, it is antisemitism masquerading as a fight for civil rights.
These people are being emboldened by members of our own government in the United States. We have openly antisemitic members of Congress who, despite their odious speech and connections, are bolstered by the Left. Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib have stood behind anti-Jewish tropes and connected themselves to organizations that promote blood libel. Between Omar and Tlaib on the far left, and neo-Nazis on the far right, America has become a safe space for antisemitism.
And it shows. Since the previous Jewish New Year there have been two deadly attacks on US synagogues, one in Pennsylvania and the other in California. In each incident, gunmen whose sole purpose was to kill Jews invaded worship spaces with assault weapons and opened fire on the people praying there. Despite the fears of growing antisemitism in the nation, this was the first time in decades that Jews truly felt unsafe to be Jewish.
Antisemitic attacks have even become so normalized in the US that they barely make the news anymore. But I keep my eye out, which is how I know that in just one week at the end of August, three Orthodox Jews were viciously attacked simply for daring to look Jewish.
On August 27, a rabbi was beaten with a rock, causing him to lose two teeth and suffer serious facial and leg injuries. On August 29, a group of men threw rocks at an Orthodox man sitting in his truck. One rock broke the driver-side window, hitting the man in the eye and cutting his face. On August 31, an assailant hit an Orthodox man with a belt outside a synagogue. And that was just one week!
So what can we do? We can unite against such hatred and join in prayer for peace. We can follow the teachings of the great teacher Yisrael Meir Kagan, the “Chofetz Chaim,” whom the Day of Jewish Unity honors, and refrain from gossip and harsh words. We can seek out our non-Jewish brothers and sisters to join us in prayer and join our resistance to hatred.
The alternative of not uniting against antisemitism is a repetition of some of the Jewish people’s darkest days.
The writer is a pro-Israel activist.