The Pathetic Response to the Scourge of Antisemitism
May was Jewish American Heritage Month, which is supposed to recognize and celebrate the achievements of American Jews and their contributions to the United States. But this past month has instead seen a massive surge in antisemitic attacks, verbal abuse, and hate crimes, terrifying Jews across the US.
Jews from coast to coast have been targeted at synagogues, restaurants, and on the streets. Jews praying at a Borough Park synagogue on a recent Shabbat were afraid to leave, because thugs outside yelled “kill the Jews” and “free Palestine.” The Los Angeles Police Department is probing a hate crime in which Jews were attacked outside a sushi restaurant.
In Bal Harbour, Florida, a Jew vacationing with his family was harassed by men in a car who shouted “die Jew” and threatened to rape his wife and daughter. A “Walk for Israel” rally near Chicago was disrupted by violent protesters. The Anti-Defamation League has reported 26 instances of antisemitism since May 10, but most incidents go unreported.
The surge has, of course, been connected to Israel’s anti-Hamas Operation Guardian of the Walls against terror from the Gaza Strip. Other wars and military operations in the Middle East have led in the past to an upswing in hate against Jews in America.
Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY), who famously defended Israel from the UN declaring Zionism is racism 25 years ago, also said anti-Zionism is antisemitism.
But today, antisemites in America no longer need any excuses. Their hate has been legitimized by American celebrities like Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving, comedian John Oliver, and actor Mark Ruffalo, whose postings against Israel went viral.
Ruffalo retracted his post accusing Israel of genocide against the Palestinians, writing it was “not accurate, inflammatory, disrespectful and is being used to justify antisemitism.”
But such retractions are few and far between, and the flood of antisemitic content on social media has become overwhelming.
The time for serious condemnations and action to stop antisemitism is long overdue. It must happen immediately, before the next Poway or Pittsburgh.
US President Joe Biden wrote on Twitter that “the recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop” and that “it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.”
While these are powerful words, they came at least a week too late. Biden neglected to speak out against antisemitism for too long. Imagine what would have happened had Biden’s predecessor former US president Donald Trump not responded immediately to the antisemitic incidents. He would have faced fierce criticism, and the criticism would have been justified.
There must be zero tolerance for antisemitism, just like there is none for racism against Black or Hispanic Americans or discrimination against women. Jews should be able to go anywhere in America, feeling completely safe and wearing their kipot with pride.
My parents were rescued by righteous gentiles in Poland. The couple who saved them were officially recognized as Righteous of the Nations by Yad Vashem. But as righteous as they genuinely were, even they spoke positively about Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s efforts to cleanse Poland of Jews. The Holocaust was the weakest point for the Jewish people in our history.
Now we are at our strongest point, with the most sophisticated Jewish community since Sinai. We have a thriving Jewish state with one of the world’s most powerful armies, and unfortunately, also one of the most battle-tested.
The Jewish community in America is also strong, with more than 20 Jews serving in top posts in the Biden administration. The majority leader of the Senate, Charles Schumer, is a Jew who built himself up from a humble background. He is now the most powerful Jewish elected official in America. Perhaps he should have used that power to speak out more forcefully and to take action against extremist statements made against Israel by members of Congress.
There is so much to recognize about the accomplishments of countless Jewish Americans. But to truly celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month next year, much must be done on a local, federal, and national level to stop the scourge of antisemitism.
The writer is co-president of the Religious Zionists of America, chairman of the Center for Righteousness and Integrity and a committee member of the Jewish Agency. He was appointed by former US president Donald Trump as a member of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. The views expressed are his own. [email protected].