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My Shabbat Message for May 28, 2021
Thoughts, Prayers and the Surge in Anti-Semitism

Dear Friends,

The weather has turned warmer. The trees are full and the flowers have blossomed. At this moment, it is a bit chilly but the windows are open. After months inside, the fresh air is more than a welcomed guest, it is a lifeline. And we are increasingly able to be together without (or to be fair, with less) fear for ourselves and one another.

There is so much to celebrate at this moment but, at least for me, much of this positivity has been dulled by the recent surge in anti-semitic incidents. Between May 7 and May 14 the hashtag #Hitlerwasright appeared more than 17,000 times on Twitter, and it has been accompanied by a similarly shocking rise in the number of anti-semitic incidents taking place.

I am sad. I am concerned. But I am also hurt and angry about the relative silence from community leaders and non-Jewish clergy members.

When soldiers who are transgender were being stripped of their military careers, we gathered in town for a vigil to offer them support.

When the prior administration singled out the Muslim community and imposed a travel ban, we gathered in town and stood in solidarity with the Muslim community.

And when those seeking asylum in the United States were denied entry or mistreated, we not only gathered together to demonstrate locally, but many of us went to the border to try to help.

But as anti-semitic incidents have surged there has been relative silence. This past week alone, three different kippah-wearing friends told me they are considering not wearing their kippot unless they are in their home or synagogue. They don’t want to become targets. And a friend who was moving into a home in Los Angeles asked if I thought putting a mezuzah on their new front door would put them at risk. That’s what is happening right here, right now, in America. And yet, the response to this ugliness by those outside of the Jewish community has, at best, been limited.

Where is the nationwide outrage expressing support for our community when we are the ones who are under attack? (Mind you, we have had no threats directed at our synagogue, and, as we are coming back together, we are once again having security officers present when larger groups gather.)

It is true that many elected officials have Tweeted statements of support. For example, on May 23 Governor Murphy Tweeted:

“The spate of recent antisemitic attacks on Jewish communities across the nation run counter to our core values as Americans. They are inexcusable and wrong. And I condemn them in the strongest possible terms.”

Similarly, Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill wrote:

“Horrific incidents of antisemitism including attacks on the Jewish community have risen sharply in the last few weeks. I strongly condemn these violent, hateful acts. Our community must speak out and work together to stop all forms of bigotry and hate.”

And, after the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect, Congressman Tom Malinowski Tweeted,

“We may have a ceasefire in the Middle East, but we must do more to stop the obviously related spurt of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States. Leaders have to speak up, whether this comes from the far left or far right.”

Sadly, I could not find even a single Tweet about the surge in hate crimes directed at the Jewish community from my own Congressman, Donald Payne Jr.

I know all four of these leaders and I have the deepest respect for each of them. But, a Tweet here or there with little followup feels far more like “Thoughts and Prayers” to me than anything else. (And even those thoughts and prayers are little more than a whisper.)

We need them to do more. And since it does not seem to be happening on its own, it is now incumbent upon us to tell them so. We need them to be speaking out as forcefully on this issue as they have on other issues. And we need them to do more than merely speak out. We deserve to know that our government, on both the local and national level, is taking the steps necessary to safeguard our community.

I shared my frustration and upset with a dear friend. A member of the Christian clergy, he apologized for his relative silence and, as I knew he would, committed to being more vocal in support of our community. As we were talking he commented that some of the silence may be the result of people’s inner conflict, having witnessed the recent fighting between Israel and Hamas.

“So let me understand this,” I said, “you are telling me that because people may have concerns over how Israel conducted itself in recent weeks, (concerns that have, in part, been fueled by poor, biased reporting) and because of the on-going stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians, they may not be willing to speak out for the Jewish community here in America? If anti-Zionism and anti-semitism aren’t the same thing, why is it that American Jews walking down the streets of New York are being attacked by other Americans? How does a conflict between Israel and a terror organization justify bias against Jews in America, or anywhere else?”

He listened, he heard me and he reaffirmed his commitment to doing more.

We need more.

We need to do more to speak out proudly about being Jewish.

We need to do more to help our young people to stand tall in the face of this growing hatred. (At the same time, we can do a far better job helping them develop a love and appreciation for the miracle that is Israel while also giving them a full picture of the complex challenges facings Israelis and Palestinians alike.)

And we need more from our local and national leaders. A tweet here or there simply isn’t enough.

To #ActAgainstAntisemitism click here.