As Jews in Israel and around the world prepare to observe Yom HaShoa, Holocaust Memorial Day, on Thursday, the latest attack against Jews in a synagogue is stuck in their craw. Never before this fall in Pittsburgh, have Jews been attacked in America in their House of Worship. Now it has happened twice in six months. The attack on the Chabad Synagogue in Poway California on Saturday was the latest terrorist assault on Jews. It signified that hatred of Jews is clearly on the rise.
Only yesterday the Anti-Defamation League released its annual report on bias incidents in general in the U.S. as well as specifically anti-Semitic events in 2018. The ADL reported that anti-Semitic assaults against Jews doubled over 2017 (59 victims versus 39) and overall incidents continued at approximately the same level in the two-year period (1,879 versus 1,979). While levels of attacks against Jews in the United Kingdom, France, and throughout Europe are on the rise as well, the eruption of blatant anti-Semitic events in the U.S. is unprecedented.
Ethnic, racial, religious, sexual, cultural, and economic polarization has never been greater in America than it is today. Extremists on all sides have been given a license to express their anger and hostility towards others begins at the top of American society. With respect to anti-Semitism, from the President to the New York Times, from Members of Congress of both parties, and from religious clerics, hatred of Jews has been stirred up in verbal attacks as well as now in repeated instances of violence. It has also been legitimated when the President himself expresses sympathy for those attacked but does not condemn and denounce the White Supremacist culture which is encouraging and spewing forth these myths to their followers.
For American Jews, the problem is that America was always very different in how it related to “others”. Throughout history in Europe, anti-Semitism has been normative in many countries. Today in the U.S., bias, racism, misogyny, and anti-Semitism are acceptable. America is no longer a White Protestant society with a male dominating ruling culture. Clearly the number of people in the country who do not recognize and accept this fact are growing. Many are expressing their rejection of this reality in violent acts.
The sudden poignancy of this moment is not lost on the Jewish community, particularly as Jews and their friends around the world stop to remember the Holocaust. “Never again” is now being replaced by an awareness that anti-Semitism is well and alive even in America.
Finally, Israel is not the problem or the issue. Hatred of Jews is far deeper and insidious than whether someone likes or dislikes Bibi Netanyahu. Many people—including many Jews– have policy grievances with the current Israel Government but disagreement over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians does not justify hatred of the Jews in Israel or Jews in the United States. Efforts to justify anti-Zionism by claiming it is not anti-Semitic is based on fallacious reasoning.
Anti-Semitism repeatedly has been called the “longest hatred”. American Jews had been lulled into believing that it would never have a resurgence in the United States. Jews are learning that anti-Semitism never went away and it is giving Yom HaShoa a frightening additional meaning.