Has the Heat of Worldwide Antisemitism Become Too Hot for the Jewish People?
JNS.org – The stinging heat of antisemitism is being felt around the world. Whether you live in Miami, Rome or Santiago, the goosebumps we all got when we heard the chants of the white supremacists in Charlottesville — “Jews will not replace us” — are the same.
Similarly, the lump in my throat when I learned that the pedestrians who were mowed down in Barcelona last week were standing outside two kosher restaurants is the same feeling that was felt by Jews in Brussels, Sydney and Toronto.
These feelings have reminded me of Robert De Niro’s character in the 1995 movie, Heat. In that film, De Niro’s character famously says that you have to be ready to drop everything and leave if you feel the “heat” coming around the corner. With the heat index of antisemitism on the rise, we must ask: Is it time for Jews to drop everything and move to the Jewish homeland of Israel?
In 2015, then-Vice President Joe Biden said that the only country in the world that can guarantee the safety of the Jewish people is Israel. Biden received a lot of criticism for that comment. American Jews felt slighted and concerned. Yet I believe that he was absolutely correct. As Biden said, “No matter how hospitable, no matter how consequential, no matter how engaged, no matter how deeply involved you are in the United States … there’s only one guarantee. There is really only one absolute guarantee, and that’s the State of Israel.”
A clear look at today’s political landscape shows that this is true, especially because of the resurgence of antisemitism on both sides of the political spectrum. On one side, there is the “progressive” movement’s aggressive and antisemitic support of boycotts of Israel, often revealing that anti-Zionism is a thin veil for classic antisemitism. On the other side, we saw that the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was filled with Nazis and white supremacists. None of this is new.
At the same time, another source of “heat” is the cheapening of Jewish life in mainstream society. This may seem like a bold, inflammatory statement — but it doesn’t make it any less true.
For example, in January 2017, a group of people were patiently standing on a pedestrian promenade in Israel. A truck came barreling down the street, veered intentionally up the sidewalk and ran right over the group, killing four and injuring 15. The driver was then shot as he was reversing the truck to try and kill more people.
Yet since this terrorist attack took place in Jerusalem, the BBC covered the story with a headline that read, “Driver of lorry shot in Jerusalem after allegedly ramming pedestrians, injuring at least 15, Israeli media report.” This is not just one news outlet. This is not just one incident. This is the new trend in the international media, including in the United States.
Therefore, one must ask: is the value of Jewish life beginning to diminish yet again?
This brings me back to my initial question: Has the proverbial heat of antisemitism reached a level dictating that Jews should pack their bags and move to Israel?
As a patriotic American citizen — and as the mayor of an amazing US municipality — I believe that the answer for Jews in the US is “no.” America is still a very safe country, where the government — at every level — protects the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, including Jews.
I know that in my municipality of Bal Harbour, and throughout the US, most in the Jewish community feel safe and are thriving. In fact, the Jewish people have never lived a safer and freer existence — outside of Israel — than we have in the US during the last century.
Despite this reality, and given the lessons of history, it is imperative for Jews to always ask the question: Am I still safe here?
Jews around the world cannot be blind to the reality surrounding them. We cannot ignore the rising heat levels of the past several years. We must keep our eyes wide open, even if we live in what seems to be a paradise. The rise of antisemitism must be fought without hesitation and without equivocation — whether it comes from the left or the right. Antisemitism cannot only be challenged when it is politically convenient. We must never again allow antisemitism or any form of racism to become tolerable in our society.
Gabriel Groisman is the mayor of Bal Harbour, Fla. Follow him on Twitter: @gabegroisman.