Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Here We Go Again!

Steelers President Art Rooney II present a check to the Jewish Federation (VIN)
As we begin 2019 I note there has been a lot of reflection in the media about the year gone by. In that context, JTA reports that in the city of New York there was a 22% increase in antisemitic incidents according to the NYPD. Of the 352 hate crimes reported in 2018, 183 were against our people. To put that in perspective, there were more antisemtic incidents against us that against all other hate crimes combined. That is quite a statement.

None of this is all that new. The ADL has been making those kinds of comments all year. But their count was biased. That was made evident by the fact that they included terrorist bomb threats made against Jewish Centers in America by a disturbed Israeli teenager. There is no way that should be included in any kind of statistic reflecting antisemitism.  That said, there can be no denial that there has been an increase in hate crimes. And that the majority of them were against Jews.

As I have said in the past, this does not mean we are living in the American version of  1939 Germany again. We are light years of distance far away from that. And yet when statistics like this are thrown around, they make an impact. Statistics like this are often used to justify such claims by responsible people that ought to know better. But apparently don’t. 

Also, those kinds of comparisons might impact those of us who are ‘Children of the Holocaust’ (defined as children whose parents are actual survivors) the most. Of which I am one. But as I have also said in the past, I am also not someone that believes that America is anywhere near 1939 Germany. The fact is that the rate of serious antisemitic violence is actually down. But even if one looks at the actual increased number - 183 incidents in a city of 8.6 million people is so minuscule it hardly rates mention. (with the obvious exception of the individuals it happened to.)

This of course does not mean that every one that did not commit a hate crime against us can’t be an antisemite. Sure they can. They have just not acted on it. There are plenty of those still around.  But as I noted after the massacre in Pittsburgh last year, the love expressed by Americans of all stripes far exceeded (also by light years) any expressions of hate. There were ample examples of that at the time. And it just happened again.The Pittsburgh Steelers, whose owner Art Rooney is not Jewish just handed a check for $70,000 to the Jewish Federation of Pittsburgh’s Victims of Terror Fund. From VIN
The money was raised by the team and its partners from the sale of merchandise branded with the “Stronger Than Hate” logo. The logo, which was created by Tim Hindes after the antisemitic massacre of 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh in late October, modified the Steelers’ emblem to include a Star of David and the message “Stronger Than Hate.”
In early November, the team partnered with the Underground Printing Company to sell shirts with the logo, with all the proceeds benefiting the Jewish Federation.  
This is not an anomaly. This is America. It is the hatred that is the anomaly here. I cannot repeat this American truism enough. Organizations like the ADL that go around saying that ‘the sky is falling’ are doing a great disservice to – not only American Jewry, but to America itself.

This does not mean we shouldn’t be vigilant (as I must have said a million times before on this subject). Of course we must. But we must also recognize the reality of what America is all about. Which is reflected in the vast majority of Americans. I cannot repeat this undeniable fact enough times!  We, the Jewish people ought to recognize this and continue to express our Hakoras Hatov -  our gratitude. We live in the least antisemitic country in Jewish history. By far! Jews are not a hated people here.

There is more than ample evidence about how positive the American people feel about Jews and Judaism. Despite the truly embarrassing things done by some highly recognizable Jews - some of them Orthodox. When asked how Americans would feel about the Jewish people after disgraced former Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff was identified as an observant Jew - John McCain said something like: the American people know the difference between a crook and the people he comes from.

There are no laws here impeding or restricting any of our ritual practices. Jews are so accepted here that assimilation is a far bigger danger to our existence  than antisemitism. By far. That should be more than obvious based on statistics cited by Pew Research that show an extremely high rate of intermarriage by assimilated secular Jews. That combined with the massive hemorrhaging of those Jews out of heterodox denominations - or Judaism altogether - makes this a crisis one of existential proportion. That is where our focus should mostly be. Not so much on the minuscule amount of antisemitic incidents that happened last year. Not even withstanding their increase.

Compare our freedom as Jews to what is going on in Europe. Antisemitic incidents there have increased to a frightening level. Incidents that are far more serious  than painting a swastika on a synagogue door. Back in 2015 France, antisemitic incidents were so bad that many of its Jews started immigrating to Israel. That prompted French Prime Minister Manuel Valls to declare, ‘France without its Jews is not France!’

Then there was Poland who outlawed calling Auschwitz a Polish Death Camp - thereby denying any complicity in the Holocaust. Anyone that knows anything about Polish antisemtism knows that this is the furthest thing from the truth. Poland was even more antisemitic than Germany. Long before Hitler. (Poland has since retraced that law.)

And just this week, Belgium has outlawed Shechita – the humane ritual slaughter of animals that makes meat Kosher. That will make it very difficult  for Belgian Jews to eat meat. Belgium has joined a whole host of European nations that have placed varying degrees of restriction on Kosher slaughter.

Not here. The only thing this country has done (in New York) is require all of its citizens to get a decent secular education. Which of course includes us. The only people that might see that as antisemitic are Jews that have no use for that in their schools. But I see that requirement as a philosemitic. Not antisemitic.

Not that I haven’t said any of this before in a variety of ways. But every time I see an article that indicates Jews are increasingly victims of antisemtic incidents in America I feel the need to counter the implication that things are so bad here - and show why. Which I think I just did. Again.