Since early January, over 50 JCCs have received almost 70 anonymous bomb threats, forcing the evacuation of babies, children and staff in 26 states. Proliferating anti-Semitic acts are reported on an almost daily basis, including broken synagogue windows, as well as Swastikas defacing holy places of prayer, the New York subway and private Jewish properties. In a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated, with more than 100 headstones knocked over or broken.
What is wrong with this picture? Is this our new “normal,” and are we simply to adjust to and accept this frighteningly unacceptable reality?
Recently, Mr. Trump has had ample opportunity to address the issue of rising anti-Semitism in the United States, but he has chosen to avoid the issue. When he finally, but briefly, did respond to the recent acts of intimidation and desecration, his tone was tepid at best, and his denunciation of these acts, considering their severity and magnitude, seemed shallow, clearly lacking both the moral conviction and presidential heft needed at a time of crisis such as this. This is not a political issue — it is a vital issue of the utmost urgency, and the president must do more.
The president’s delayed and inadequate response to this new phenomenon, this terribly familiar malaise within our society, is not only wrong, it is dangerously irresponsible. It could augur far worse hate manifestations and unrestrained acts of ethnic violence against Jews. Then, the frightening eventuality of what could actually happen in this country is no longer just plausible — it becomes eminently possible.
The president’s prolonged reluctance to publicly and unequivocally condemn these increasing and egregious anti-Semitic acts may be misinterpreted. His behavior may be viewed as a message of acceptance to the perpetrators of these acts. And as a Jew, I am greatly concerned.
What are Mr.Trump and members of his administration (Jared Kushner comes to mind) waiting for in order to seriously confront this very present and very real threat — Jewish bloodshed?
Because we know painfully all too well what follows Swastikas, desecration of holy places, broken windows and death threats. Historically evidenced in photos, film, documents and archived testimonial by Holocaust survivors, the Nazi-era carnage is firmly anchored in the citadel of our collective memories — an indestructible fortress of evidence against negationist assaults and time’s ravages.
This is the evil we know, the one we did battle with many decades ago and whose head we thought had been chopped off — but here it is again, the nightmare we all dread, slithering back from its dark hole into the light to spread its venomous message of hate and intolerance, knocking at America’s doors, asking to be let in. It must be dealt with swiftly and decisively, nipped in the bud before it is allowed to grow, fester and spread like gangrene among us.
And make no mistake, the KKK, white supremacists and other assorted varieties of neo-nationalist groupuscules are on the rise. Something quite undefined in Trump’s campaign rhetoric seems to have fueled their hatred and emboldened and reinvigorated their obscure organizations. I am extremely worried that this surge of anti-Semitic reprisals against both institutions and individuals could begin to spread like wildfire — and if not contained, easily get out of control.
Some of us watched the bizarre exchange between Trump and Jake Turx, an Orthodox Jewish reporter from Ami Magazine. We watched incredulously the quasi-contemptuous way Turx was treated by the president. He was accused of lying and was told to sit down and be quiet. Turx’s pointedly relevant question on the rise of anti-Semitism and the wave of anti-Semitic acts since the election was dismissed. Barely grasping the urgency, validity or even parameters of the question, which had nothing to do with Trump’s character, an angry and childishly petulant Trump literally shrugged it off, telling Turx how insulting and unfair his question was. Frankly, this was beyond disturbing on so many levels on the part of an American president, bordering on something infinitely more worrisome, which I am struggling to understand.
The anti-Semitic wave of violence sweeping the country for the past two months, with almost daily occurrences, is something we have never witnessed in America before. Clearly, something is very, very wrong here.
I am pleading here with both Democratic and Republican Jews to become aware of what is going on in our Jewish communities and to use whatever means available through your social media apparatus to decry and bring to light each and every anti-Semitic act, no matter how small. Have the courage to demand that the administration, as well as your representatives, senators, governors and mayors publicly and unequivocally condemn, repudiate and punish all anti-Semitic hate crimes in order to send a warning that everyone understands — that these acts are not only reprehensible, but they are also criminal and punishable to the full extent of the law.
Do it now my friends, not because I am asking, but for the sake of those you love. Get mad. Get outraged. Get to work. Call, write, badger and scream if you have to. Someone has got to put a stop to this madness now — before it is too late. “Never again” starts with you and me.