Anti-Semitism: America’s growing crisis
America is in the midst of “the worst wave of sustained anti-Semitic violence in our nation’s history,” said Marc Baker, Jeremy Burton, and Robert Trestan in The Boston Globe. Over the past 14 months, there have been dozens of attacks on Jews and numerous threats and incidents of vandalism and arson against synagogues, cemeteries, and homes. This ugly pogrom began when a white supremacist massacred 11 people at a Pittsburgh synagogue in October 2018; six months later, another opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., killing one and wounding three. On Dec. 10, an anti-Semitic couple killed three people at a kosher grocery in Jersey City. On Dec. 28, a masked man stabbed five people at a rabbi’s house in Rockland County, N.Y. Over Hanukkah, at least 10 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the New York area alone, with people being punched and attacked simply because they are Jews. “We have seen this during other times and in other countries,” but never before to this extent in America.
The “conventional wisdom” has blamed an invigorated white nationalist movement and its “avatar in the White House,” President Trump, said Batya Ungar-Sargon in Forward.com. But we’ve learned in recent months that many attackers have no specific political ideology; the majority of those who’ve perpetrated the New York assaults are African-American. The blame actually lies with neither the far right nor anti-Zionists on the left but with the rise of extremism in general—and the flourishing of the ancient conspiracy theory that “secretive Jewish power” controls the world. Anti-Semitism has existed for more than 1,000 years, said Benjamin Wittes in TheAtlantic.com. People on the Left and Right who blame only one ideology are using anti-Semitism “as a weapon” rather than seriously confronting a growing problem.
We’d better take the problem seriously, said Frida Ghitis in CNN.com. Throughout history, anti-Semitism has served as “the canary in the coal mine” for societies that are unraveling. When “the beliefs and ideals” that hold a society together crumble, people in different groups start viewing one another not as countrymen but as rivals, traitors, and “the other.” Jews are usually the first group to be targeted as scapegoats. History tells us that it will be deeply dangerous if anti-Semitism continues to grow in the U.S., “and not just for the Jews.” ■