Thursday, November 14, 2019

Why Antisemitism in America is on the Increase

Antisemitic incidents have increased in NYC (JTA)
Antisemitism is alive and well in America. I don’t think there can be any doubt about that. As an article in JTA notes the majority of hate crimes in New York are against us – the Jewish people:
Anti-Semitic incidents in the city have increased significantly this year, according to data from the New York Police Department. Through September, there have been 163 reported incidents, up from 108 over the same period last year — an increase of 50 percent. Anti-Semitic incidents make up a majority of reported hate crimes in New York City. 
That being said, I have not changed my view about the American people. The vast majority of which are not antisemitic at all. There is just too much evidence of that for me to believe otherwise. Just to cite one example of many is the reaction to the massacre of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year. The sympathy – even empathy – that was so evident from across the wide spectrum of American citizens of all color, religion, and political persuasion, that I could not help being moved by it. That is the America I still see.  

And yet antisemitism has significantly increased. There were several incidents just over the weekend in New York: 
On Friday night, surveillance video captured a man throwing a brick through the window of a Hasidic girls’ school in Crown Heights. On the same night in the Borough Park neighborhood, at least three identifiably Orthodox men were punched by assailants. Also in Borough Park, multiple Orthodox Jews in Borough Park had eggs thrown at them over the weekend. 
So what gives? Is there some sort of undercurrent of latent antisemitism among the American people that I don’t see - being blinded by my love for this country?

No. As noted I have not changed my view at all about the American people. The fact is that religious tolerance is enshrined in the constitution. It is built into the DNA of the American people and its institutions. What has changed is that the antisemites that do exist are now increasingly acting on their hatred. They have been emboldened to hurt us. Not just with rhetoric. But physically The question again is why?

The all too easy answer for a lot of people is that it’s the President’s fault. Even though he is not an antisemite himself - his dog whistle racist rhetoric appeals to all manner of racists, bigots, and antisemties and has thereby opened the floodgates.

I suppose there might be some truth to that. But I seriously doubt that he is the sole – or even the primary source of that door being opened. I believe it is a lot more complicated than that.

The source is as ancient as Judaism itself. Esav Sonei L’Yaakov. Esav’s descendants hate the descendants of their ‘brother’ Jacob. Even though the vast majority of Americans are the exception to that rule - it still exists. Certainly in Europe. But even here in the form of all the fringe antisemitic hate groups on both the Christian right and leftist sympathizers with Palestinians who are mostly Muslim.

A lot of it is sourced in the Catholic Church that prior to the early 60s  blamed us for the death of their god. Even though Vatican II ‘absolved’ us of that ‘crime’, that hatred lingers on in the mind of those hate groups – who want to see an ‘all white Christian America’. Although most of these groups stem from a variety of protestant denominations that have broken from the Church they (protestants) have nevertheless inherited the Church's antipathy toward us. And the hate groups that have arisen out of them have taken that antipathy to an extreme form of hatred.

On the other hand, a lot of it can blamed on Islamic theology. Muslims consider non Muslims infidels – Jews being the most despised among them. Why Jews? It is in their DNA. Just as Martin Luther who was the first to break form the Church first approached us in the hope that we would accept him - and when we didn’t’ he turned on us… So too did Islam’s founder Mohammed. He approached us thinking we would accept him and when we didn’t he turned on us too.

So the original source of the hatred is religion based. I believe that this is the genesis of all antisemitism. Of course that is compounded by many factors – both historic and current - outside of their religions.

For one thing people are simply uncomfortable with difference. Sometimes they even fear it. So the more ‘Jewish’ we look, the more uncomfortable non Jews might feel around us. Most Americans can handle difference. But for those that can’t, it can be expressed in antisemitic incidents.

And then there are influential antisemites like Nation of Islam leader, Louis Farrakhan. He stokes hatred of us among his adherents.

All of this is exacerbated and accelerated via the internet where hate can be spread to the masses in an instant! And on a daily basis. With ease!

But some of it is our own fault. And… no this is not a case of ‘blaming the victim’. Not unless you think that’s what the ADL is doing: 
(Evan Bernstein, the ADL’s New York regional director) noted that some landlords in the borough are Orthodox, including some on lists of the worst landlords in New York City, which can breed anti-Semitic stereotypes…
…kids in the city are learning to hate from a mix of influences, including parents who might have lived through the 1991 Crown Heights riots, which began after a black boy was killed accidentally by a car escorting Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the late head of the Chabad-Lubavitch Hasidic movement, which is headquartered in the neighborhood. The death touched off three days of rioting in which black youths attacked religious Jews, killing one.
Pastor Gil Monrose, who leads a church in Crown Heights and serves as the borough president’s director of faith-based and clergy initiatives, pointed to gentrification as a driver of increased attacks on Jews. As rising housing prices draw in newcomers and push out some longtime residents, locals may become frustrated and seek a scapegoat. Monrose also noted that overall crime levels are high in Crown Heights… 
Is there anything that can be done about it? Well as the JTA article notes, some things are already being done. But there needs to be more. One of which would be to stop giving the antisemites of the world additional reasons to hate us. Which for me means making a Kiddush HaShem whenever possible and perhaps more importantly - avoid making a Chilul HaShem like the plague!