American Jews Under Attack — It’s Time to Unite
Illustration: Tree of Life Synagogue - Memorials to Victims by Andrea Hanks/Official White House Photo [Public Domain] via Wikimedia
Yet another serious physical assault against a Jewish man took place last month. This time it was in the Maywood section of Brooklyn, New York. According to a tweet by former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, “A young Jewish man was called a ‘[expletive] Jew’ and then belted over the head with a metal belt buckle!”
This assault happened while police were still busy investigating two other hate crimes against religious Jewish men from just the week prior: In Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a man hit a rabbi in the face with a paving stone, breaking his nose and knocking out two of his front teeth. Just two days later in the same neighborhood, a number of suspects apparently threw ice at an Orthodox Jewish man who was sitting in traffic, injuring his eye.
This is a stark, ugly reminder that violent anti-Semitism is a growing trend in America. Unfortunately, due to the political discord, and the terrible rhetoric flying out from all directions, it has become fashionable again to speak and physically lash out at Jews.
As our enemies clamor for more violence, we as a community cannot afford the luxury of apathy and smugness. We have to start uniting the various segments of the Jewish community — and not only because of street violence. Our enemies are more united than we are, and dangerous extremists are bursting forth to continue the spiral of violence, whatever their motives may be.
The haters are not going to bother to determine if you are religious or non-religious. The extremists will not give pause to determine if you are more liberal or conservative, Sefardi or Ashkenazi. Nor will they care about the skin color of a Jew. They are color blind when it comes to hatred and do not distinguish based on how we affiliate or do not affiliate.
Know this: The more we ignore the larger fragmented landscape of Jewish life, the more they can lash out with impunity. While of course personal self-defense training is an extremely effective response to street violence, there is more that must be done.
We must change the thinking of the Jewish community. We cannot fight this the “old” way of depending on law enforcement, studies of the causes of anti-Semitism, coffee with local church groups, and meetings with political officials.
We cannot afford to say “at least that wasn’t a Jew from my synagogue or Temple.” From Brooklyn to Pittsburgh to Poway to the July 28th shooting outside of the Young Israel of Greater Miami synagogue where an elderly congregant was shot six times — an incident that drew almost no media attention outside Florida — violent attacks on Jews are being committed across the country. We must also remember that since the Pittsburgh massacre, police have thankfully preempted numerous mass casualty attacks while the would-be killers were still in the planning stages.
When American Jews unite it is an extremely powerful and wonderful thing, and in generations past it was usually hate that galvanized Jews together — think of what was accomplished by our community for Soviet Jewry starting in the 1970s!
Let us work to sensitize ourselves to respect and care about all Jews in the face of this hate and danger. We cannot wait until conditions are so horrible that we get the message too late. We are all in this together, whatever one's beliefs are. We need to put aside our differences and start making progress towards real unity.
Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America’s U.S. Division. Herut, an international movement for Zionist pride and education, is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War Two Zionist leader Ze'ev Jabotinsky.
Herut has begun a Jewish Unity Challenge, asking like minded people to sign here to help foster a greater sense of responsibility among Jews. Contact Herut North America here for speakers to address synagogues and other groups on the topics of the Call For Jewish Unity and Jews Inclusiveness.
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