When I read the headline, my heart dropped. I had forgotten that just a day prior, a Jewish man was shot three blocks from where I live. Many chalked the first incident up to a random robbery, but when an eerily identical incident occurred a day later, I knew this was not random. This was an attack on our people.
Two Jewish men wearing yarmulkes were shot on their way back from synagogue just two days apart. When word broke about the first shooting, my mind started racing with possible explanations of the attack. I thought to myself, maybe this was a coincidence. It was only clear what was happening after the second victim was shot. We were being hunted.
The attacks happened a few blocks away from each other in the predominantly Jewish neighborhood known to many as Pico-Robertson. This melting-pot of a community shares different Jewish cultures, with Los Angeles home to the third largest Jewish population in the world. A community like this, concentrated and strong in Jewish beliefs is always a target. Growing up in the heart of Pico-Robertson, I never felt a particular threat. My schools and synagogue were always guarded with armed enforcement. It is only now, in my young adult life that I see the reason my people need vigilant protection.
The reality is, this community has been fortunate that an attack had not happened sooner. This concentrated Jewish community has not had an attack like this in half a century. Instead of the dread felt when this attack happened, I thought about how it should have happened sooner. I am grateful to not have experienced severe antisemitism until the incident, but it should come as no shock. Jewish history is rooted in murder and expulsion. The surprise is not that this happened, the surprise is that it did not happen sooner.
Sometimes it takes an incident around the corner to recognize the uprising in antisemitism with Jewish people being the most targeted religious community in the US. When horrific acts take place across the nation we turn to social media for activism and change. But it is different when the incident involves your beloved neighborhood. These attacks were more than another unstable person on a rampage. It told myself and Jews everywhere that we have never fully escaped persecution.
Thankfully, both victims survived and are recovering and the streets of Pico-Robertson have gone back to its populated blocks and filled stores. We may be on higher alert from now on, but we will continue to wear our Jewish identity with longevity and pride.