It’s as if every week that goes by now brings another anti-Semitic attack in America.
From The Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh to the Poway Synagogue shooting in California to the shooting at the kosher market in Jersey City this week. The latest shooting occurred literally just the day before President Trump issued an executive order at a White House Chanukah celebration to cover anti-Semitic acts under the civil rights laws that ban discrimination based on national origin. Yet, despite the Constitution and all the protective laws and orders on the books, we are getting to the point where it is starting to look and feel awfully like there is nowhere safe anymore if you are a Jew, even in this great land of freedom.
Further, while some may want to bury their head in sand as in the precursor years of the Holocaust and pretend that nothing has changed here and that we really aren’t in any imminent danger as Jews, others are perhaps more keenly aware of what could be a terrible transformation taking place. For example, today in synagogue, one gentleman raised his concern to a couple of us about what’s happening with anti-Semitism rearing its ugly head again, whether from the left and from the right, and he said:
Did you know that anti-Semitism is up 78%, and it seems like no one in the Jewish community wants to talk about it.
I’m not sure of the statistic or time period that he was referring to, but he then went on to tell us that in fact on his way to synagogue, just this morning, some people yelled out the car at him the ethnic Jewish slur, “Kike!” Might I add that a few weeks ago, something similar happened to my very own family on Shabbat.
Checking the website for the Anti-Defamation League, I found that between 2013 and 2018, anti-Semitic incidents were up a whopping 150% in the United States (read that again, it’s not 1.5% or even 15%, but 150% in five years). Moreover, the Washington Post noted that for the first half of 2019, the number of anti-Semitic incidents was “mirroring” that of the prior year—whether from “anti-Semitic taunts and graffiti, and harassment and assaults” to the types of horrific murderous attacks mentioned above.
While unfortunately, we have come to expect these vile and hateful acts in Europe, the home of the Holocaust, Inquisition, pogroms, and expulsions. But this is not Europe that we are talking about now, although it certainly sounds familiar whether to two weeks ago the visiting Israeli Rabbi beaten up in London by two teens shouting “F*** Jews!” or the Israeli student beaten up on the Paris metro for speaking Hebrew just a few days ago.
In this week’s Torah reading of Vayishlach, we learn that “Esau hates Jacob,” and that as our sages teach this is an intergenerational hatred that spans all of history and is a fight that plays out in both the physical and spiritual worlds. Even in this parsha, when Jacob tried to make-up with Esau and sent him lavish gifts of tribute, and the Torah says that Esau “kissed” Jacob, the word kissed in the Torah has dots above it, which has bee interpreted to mean that it was not a sincere or “real kiss,” but rather alludes to more of a “kiss of death” for the hatred from one brother to another.
As Jews, we do not need fake hugs and kisses from anyone, neither from the forever anti-Semitic individual Esaus nor from the plethora of anti-Zionist countries alone or under the auspices of the prejudiced United Nations. The only things we need are equality and respect to practice our faith, to have a Jewish homeland to call our own in Israel, and to be able live in peace, free of hatred and discrimination, around the world.
What anti-Semitism, G-d forbid, will the next week bring, and the week after that, and after that? This vile behavior coming from people that hate us just because we are Jews, because we are Jacob and not Esau. May our eyes be open to what is happening around us, and may Hashem have an abundance of mercy on us.