Kenneth Jacobson

Are Jews Really Alone?

A couple of weeks ago, Senate Majority leader Chuck Schumer made an impassioned and important statement before the Congress about the surge of antisemitism. He was also critical of important voices, including those who the Jewish community stood in solidarity with for years, for not standing with us in the face of the barbarism of Hamas on October 7 and the continuous barbarism of the hostage crisis.

This was a very important statement in its honesty and bluntness and deserves serious attention. Schumer was speaking both in his capacity as the Democratic leader of the Senate and also as a proud Jew, a combination that doesn’t often take place. Schumer went on to say that at this moment of crisis Jews are feeling alone.

The question, however, is: are Jews really alone? Or, they are interpreting their sense of betrayal by what they consider their natural and historic partners as a reflection of aloneness when it really speaks to something else?

In fact, Jews are not alone. Significant parts of the American public were outraged by the events of October 7 and fully or partially supported Israel’s efforts and determination to destroy Hamas. It’s just that among those supporters, only a partial element consists of people on the left, mostly older individuals, while the significant part of the support comes from Americans in the center and on the right ideologically. Schumer’s statement that Jews are alone is a reflection of how difficult it is for the leader of the Democratic Party to admit that the other side, whom he has lambasted in recent years, is, in fact, the group most supportive of Israel at this critical time.

With everything politicized these days, one could view Schumer’s comment as playing politics but, in this case, I don’t even think he was approaching it that way. It seems more so that he can’t imagine that people on the right would be doing the right thing while his own left-wing allies were failing the moment.

Indeed, it would be nice if he and others would acknowledge this reality. All one has to do, irrespective of one’s political views, is to watch tv and cable coverage of the war and see the huge difference overall between Fox and other networks. On Fox alone there has been continuous advertising in the name of Fox for viewers to contribute funds to Israel during these terrible times.

The right has its own divisions over American foreign policy, with a certain segment heading toward a potentially isolationist position. Still, the historic Republican position on global US leadership as well as support for our ally Israel remains at the forefront of some of its leadership and many of its supporters.

At the same time, the polarized politics of America intrudes on an understanding of where Americans stand with regard to how the White House is handling the current crisis.  Repeatedly the figure appears that 70 percent of Americans think Biden is doing a bad job in handling the crisis.

In fact, the actual support for the President’s handling of it is much larger. Most of the real opposition is coming from young people on the left. But because individuals on the right are so inculcated with the idea that there is nothing positive that one can say about the Biden Administration, when asked about Biden they answer in the negative even though they actually are on the same wavelength as the President in their outrage at what Hamas did and in Israel’s primary goal to destroy Hamas.

It is not actual support for Israel that is weak but the willingness to give the President any political credit for his actions.

There is potential space for common ground. ADL has been leading the way coalescing supporting for two critical measures to address the historic and startling rise of antisemitism:

  1. The inclusion of $1 billion in additional funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program as part of the supplemental aid bill for Israel. Schumer deserves credit for introducing the national security supplemental which included the historic funding for the program that provides nonprofits, including houses of worship with grants to improve their physical and cyber security.
  2. Comprehensive legislation to implementation the US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism through appropriating funding for the plan, holding the White House accountable to its commitments, and ensuring that the fight against antisemitism lasts beyond any one administration.

Favor to Chuck Schumer for his honesty and courage in the face of many of his political allies who have failed him and the community. But we are not alone.

About the Author
Kenneth Jacobson is Deputy National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.
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