Amid Violent Attacks, the Time for Jewish Unity Is Now
Yet another serious physical attack on a Jewish man took place on August 31. This time, it was in the Midwood section of Brooklyn. 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 buckle!”
And this assault happened while police were still busy investigating two other hate crimes against religious Jewish men the previous week: In Crown Heights, a man hit a rabbi in the face with a paving stone, broke his nose, and knocked out two of his front teeth. Also in Crown Heights, just two days later, a number of suspects threw ice at an Orthodox Jewish man who was sitting in traffic, severely injuring his eye.
This is a stark, ugly reminder that violent antisemitism is a growing trend in America. Unfortunately, due to the political discord and terrible rhetoric flying from all directions, it has become fashionable again to verbally and physically attack 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.
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 if a Jew is white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. They are color blind when it comes to hatred, and don’t distinguish about how we affiliate, or not.
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 via the “old” way of depending on law enforcement, studies of the causes of antisemitism, 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” when discussing the victims. 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 of Florida), violent attacks on Jews are being committed across the country. We must also remember that since the Pittsburgh massacre, police have 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 need to put aside our differences and start making progress toward real unity.
Won’t you sign our pledge and join the cause for Jewish unity? This does not require you to give up anything you believe. But it does require you to pledge to help foster a greater sense of responsibility among Jews, and look for the threads that bind us together as one people, and not fall into the trap of allowing the small things that divide us to paralyze us into not working together. The petition can be found here.
Joshua Goldstein is chairman of Herut North America’s US Division. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education and is dedicated to the ideals of pre-World War II Zionist leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Herut’s website is https://herutna.org/.