American Jews need unity after antisemitic attacks

Though a cease-fire has quelled the conflict between Israel and Hamas, antisemitic incidents have proliferated across the United States since May 10, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reported.

While opinions vary amongst American Jews about what the contours of U.S. foreign policy should be in the Middle East, there is no room for diversity of opinion about heinous attacks upon Jews in the wake of the recent conflict.

On Monday of this week, both President Biden and Vice President Harris condemned the proliferation of recent attacks on American Jews.

“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop. I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor,” Biden tweeted on Monday.

Harris said, “The surge in antisemitic attacks against the Jewish community in the U.S. and around the world is despicable — it must be called out, condemned and stopped. As a country, we must stand united against hate of any kind.”

The Washington Post reported that the ADL has confirmed 26 overt instances of antisemitism since May 10. Based upon reports from Israel’s news media, the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel brought much of this out. During the battle, antisemitic incidents have occurred in European cities and the United States.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said that antisemitic attacks have occurred over the last two weeks in “California, Arizona, Illinois, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, South Carolina and Florida.” He spoke in an extended interview on the PBS NewsHour.

“The span is much greater that we have seen, but the tone, the brazenness, the audacity of these assaults [has been] in broad daylight. We have seen people basically say, if you are wearing a Jewish star, you must be a Zionist, and you must be killed. We have seen people hurling bottles and objects at homes with mezuzot on the door that were identifiably Jewish. We have seen people driving cars or marauding through Jewish neighborhoods yelling, ‘We’re going to rape your women,’ right, or yelling things like ‘Allah Akbar’ and then literally wreaking physical violence on people,” Greenblatt said.

The ADL has reported that since the beginning of hostilities between Hamas and Israel, the slogan “Hitler was right” has been tweeted more than 17,000 times.

The Washington Post reported an attack on Joseph Borgen, 29, who was accosted while on his way to a pro-Israel rally in New York City last Thursday, May 20.

“They were calling me a filthy Jew, a dirty Jew,” Borgen told the Post. “They said, ‘Hamas is going to kill all of you. Israel is going to burn.’” He added that he was punched, struck with crutches and sprayed with an irritant that resulted in a concussion and injuries to his eyes and skin. New York police arrested one man, who was charged with assault as a hate crime. The investigation is ongoing.

“The dramatic rise of antisemitic attacks in New York City and throughout the country is deeply disturbing and unacceptable. Any and all perpetrators must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. We will crush intolerance whenever and wherever it is found,” said Congressman Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who represents Brooklyn and Queens.

On Tuesday, May 18, Congregation Chaverim in Tucson, Arizona, was vandalized. Glass in the synagogue’s front door was smashed. The attack was mindless and inflicted only because of the congregation’s Jewish presence.

That same day, in Los Angeles, a rowdy group of people shouted anti-Israel comments and attacked diners outside of a sushi restaurant. LA’s Police Department arrested a man who was charged with assault with a deadly weapon.

Newsweek’s website reported that on May 12 a group of neo-Nazis drove a white van displaying antisemitic hate messages on its windows by a pro-Israel rally in Boca Raton, Florida. “Hitler was Right,” read a placard displayed on the van.

Whether or not renewed diplomacy can spur a meaningful progress in Middle Eastern diplomacy remains to be seen. We may debate the merits of politics and diplomacy. What may not be debated is the inherent right of individuals to be secure from random violence because of their religious beliefs. This is the promise of the guarantee of freedom of religion in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. It guarantees America’s Jews, and all in this nation, freedom of religion and expression.

When Adolf Hitler published his intention to exterminate world Jewry in his autobiographical screed, “Mein Kampf,” he left no doubt about his plans for world Jewry.

Hitler dreamed of a world free of Jews or Judenfrei. Hitler did not engage in debates about Jewish identity. To him, any person with a Jewish parent or ancestor was marked for extermination.

In university seminars, professors and students debate whether or not the Holocaust could happen again. If any among us doubt that it could happen again, simply view the images on YouTube from the last two weeks of brutal attacks on Jews while going about their daily lives. Every Jew must hew to the pledge of “Never Again.”

So, the time for unity and common purpose is now. We do not live in Israel, but we are indelibly connected to Israel. Every Jew is inextricably bound to all others. We are our brothers’ keepers.

A version of this editorial appeared in the May 27, 2021, issue of the Jewish Herald-Voice in Houston. Reprinted with permission.

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