The list of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York area in December is appalling, a litany of hatred that calls out to be condemned and countered.
Starting with the death of three people at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, more than a dozen incidents have been reported. These include a 65-year-old man who was punched and kicked while his assailant yelled anti-Semitic slurs and a 34-year-old woman who was walking with her son when she was hit on the head as her attacker called her a “f------ Jew.”
The latest assault happened on Saturday (Dec. 28), when a man wielding a large blade barged into a rabbi’s home and stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration. The man, who was charged Monday with a hate crime, allegedly searched online for nearby Jewish temples and for “Why did Hitler hate the Jews.”
The rash of attacks is even more troubling when you consider that it is hardly unique.
Close to 1,900 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported in 2018, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Anti-Semitic homicides reached their highest level ever last year after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead, FBI statistics show. And even while white supremacists led the chant of “Jews will not replace us!” at a 2017 Charlottesville, Va., rally, anti-Semitism can come from across the political spectrum.
“What we’re finding about various attacks is that they don’t fill any one single narrative. Perpetrators are from different backgrounds, expressed different politics,” Kari Dunn Saratovsky, CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Houston, told the editorial board. “What they share is a hatred of Jews.”
This hatred is not limited to the United States, either. Around the world, ugly incidents of bigotry and discrimination are becoming all too common. In France, where 500 anti-Semitic attacks were reported in 2018, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated this month — swastikas spray-painted on dozens of gravestones. In Germany, where a recent survey found that 1 in 4 hold anti-Semitic beliefs, a gunman attacked a synagogue during Yom Kippur, killing two people.
This rise in anti-Semitism must be met with a greater force, one that we must all contribute to spreading. Houston is a diverse city with a thriving Jewish community that deserves and welcomes support.
“It takes all of us to stand up together and unite against this hate and perpetual violence,” Saratovsky said. “We can’t remain silent here. We have to call for action, and that’s on all of us.”
Anti-Semitism is virulent and pervasive. Its tropes are used not only by racists but sometimes unwittingly reside along with calls for tolerance in many Americans’ Twitter feeds and thoughts.
While Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., rightly asked after the string of recent attacks that no one be “targeted because of their faith, race or ethnicity,” her previous tweets tied Jews to money and loyalty to Israel. President Donald Trump, who did the right thing Monday by condemning the attack in a tweet that called on Americans to “eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism,” has at other times relied on harmful tropes, too. He called Jews “brutal killers” when it comes to business deals at an Israeli American Council conference.
This reminds us all that side by side with our compassion and our condemnations of anti-Semitism, we should strive for understanding. Groups such as the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston engage in regular education efforts and interfaith community outreach, but if we are all in this together, the effort should go both ways.
This can begin as easily as visiting the newly reopened Holocaust Museum, which teaches the dangers of prejudice and apathy, or spending time at the Jewish Community Center, which offers the chance to experience activities and meet new people.
The only way to fight hate is through love. Meeting one another, and understanding one another, is a great way to start.