Tag Archives: antisemitism

Thoughts on MLK Day and the Spike in Antisemitism

For many Americans, Martin Luther King Jr. is an icon. More than fifty years after his death, he is the image of the Civil Rights Movement.

These days, the news is unfortunately full of stories of attacks against Jewish residents in the New York City area by African-Americans.

When asked about the Jews and antisemitism, Dr. King said the following:

“When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking anti-Semitism.”

What many forget is that American Jews were on the forefront of the Civil Rights moment.

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was not only a good friend of Dr. King, he was an ally. He was on the front lines with Dr. King, fighting for the rights of African-Americans.

In 1964, three young men were murdered because they believed that all Americans, regardless of race, were equal. James Chaney was the son of a African-American family from Mississippi. Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were raised Jewish in the New York City area. They came together and were murdered together because of what they believed and what they were fighting for.

When I think about Martin Luther King Jr., I think of a man of courage, honor and conviction. He knew that the journey and others were about embark upon was dangerous. But he also knew that it was right. I take that as a lesson not just in my personal life, but in every aspect of my life. What is right is not always easy. But in that lack of ease comes the knowledge that though the journey is difficult, it is the only way forward.

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I Attended the Jewish Solidarity March

One of the beautiful things about a real democracy is the ability to protest against injustice.

Today I marched with thousands of others at the Jewish Solidarity March.

It was cold, windy and crowded. I was surrounded by thousands of people who I am sure had other things to do today. But they knew that in their heart of hearts, that they had to be there today. They had to stand up and say that antisemitism and racism is wrong. No one deserves to be physically or verbally abused simply because they are different.

It was one of the thrills of my life. It’s easy to get on one’s soapbox when you’re behind a computer screen. It’s harder to leave your home and be there in person to stand up for what you believe in.

To the thousands who marched today, todah rabah (thank you). It is my hope that our presence was noticed and our voices were heard. We will not allow any of our fellow Americans to be ostracized and attacked for who they are. We will stand up for them and for all of us. It will take all of us to move this country forward.

Happy Sunday.

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Mental Illness is No Excuse For Hate

It’s been two days since the attack against the Orthodox Jews in Monsey.

Since then, it has been revealed that the accused perpetrator suffers from mental illness. It was also revealed that investigators found evidence of previous antisemitic ideas and research he did on the internet with an antisemitic bent.

The problem with claiming that mental illness is responsible for such acts has become an easy way out. Granted, like many who live with mental illness, I know all too well the unwanted extra it adds to your life. However, that does not excuse what he did.

As disturbed as I am that some are claiming that mental illness is responsible for his actions, I am equally disturbed by the fervent antisemitism. When we talk about antisemitism and the Holocaust, the first thought is of the Jews. But the Jews were not the only targets. People of African descent were as high on the Nazi hit list as the Jews were.

I wish there was a better way to end 2019. I wish that we, as a culture, had grown a little and become better than we were at the beginning of the year. It is obvious to me that we are still in the same place that we were back on January 1st.

Maybe we will be better in 2020.

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Filed under History, Mental Health

Thanks to the New Bail Reform Law, the Antisemitic Perpetrators are Free

It’s obvious to anyone who has read a newspaper that criminal justice reform and bail reform is necessary.

But there has to be limits to this reform.

As of January 1st, 2020, there will be changes to the bail system in New York.

In the last couple of weeks, the news has been filled with numerous acts of antisemitism against the Jewish community of New York City. According to news reports, the accused have been set free because of bail reform.

I’m fully cognizant that I am far from an expert on this subject. However, logic (at least my from my perspective) states that there has to be some boundaries. If the accused is not a danger to themselves or their community, then they should not be bogged down by bail and be trusted to return to court on their own.

But, if the accused will be a danger to themselves and their community, they should have that bail hanging around their necks. In the case of the woman who verbally and physically attacked three Jewish women, the message that she and others who think like her receive is that what they did was harmless. They will receive a slap on the wrist at best and will be back on the street before they know it.

I wish that there was an easy answer to this problem. But there is no easy answer. I can only hope that each case is judged individually and each defendant when it comes to bail, is given the appropriate amount.

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Thoughts On the Monsey Stabbing

The holiday season, (regardless of which holiday you celebrate), is about family, coming together and taking the time to appreciate the good things in your life.

It is not a time to hate and kill.

Last night was the 7th night of Chanukah. It was also the sight of hatred and bloodshed. In Monsey, a stranger entered Rabbi Rottenburg’s shul and started stabbing members of the congregation who were in attendance. Five were stabbed, two of those injured in the attack were the Rabbi’s young children.

This is hate, nothing more. This is Orthodox Jews being attacked because they are Orthodox Jews.

If the purpose of the attack was to make all Jews nervous, regardless of how religious they are, the perpetrator won. Though his specific target was Orthodox Jews are who obviously Jewish, his general target was the American Jewish community.

In the Holocaust, six million Jews were slaughtered because they were Jews. It did not matter if they were ultra-orthodox, Jewish in name only or somewhere in between. They were still murdered.

If his goal was to make me nervous, to hide who I am, he failed. I am proud of my faith and proud of my culture. I will always be a Jew, nothing and no one will ever change that.

I pray for the speedy recovery of the victims and the harshest punishment possible for the perpetrator.

Happy Sunday.

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When Did it Become Open Season on the Jews of New York City?

As a student of history and Jewish history, I’ve learned one thing: the treatment of the Jewish community is akin to the canary in the coalmine. When the Jewish community is treated well by their neighbors, the canary is silent. But when the Jewish community is not treated well, the canary symbolically dies, warning of the coming danger.

Over the past two weeks, there have been nearly a dozen incidents of antisemitic attacks in New York City. On Thursday night a woman was verbally abused and attacked as she walked out of Brooklyn Dunkin Donuts with her son. This morning, police announced that they were investigating another attack, bringing the total to 9.

When my family came to America and settled in New York more than a century ago, they hoped that their new land would provide the freedom and security that Europe lacked. They knew that antisemitism existed in the US, but they hoped that they would be protected from such heinous words and deeds. I don’t think (at least I hope) they expected that their descendants would not be experiencing the same vicious antisemitism that they knew all too well.

Something needs to be done, now. Those who have been accused of such crimes should absolutely be given their day in court and if found guilty, should be given the maximum punishment possible. No one, regardless of faith, ethnicity or family background deserves to be treated as such.

There have been comparisons over the last few years to Germany in 1933. I keep hoping and praying that America does not devolve into the past. But given what has happened over the past couple of weeks, I fear that my hopes and prayers are meaningless.

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How to Fight Anti-Semitism Book Review

When one has a problem and wants to deal with it, the first step to admit that you have a problem. But one first had to admit that they have a problem, which more often than not is the hardest step.

70+ years after World War II and the Holocaust, the number of antisemitic acts is rising to records that has not been seen in decades.

Earlier this year, journalist Bari Weiss published her new book, How to Fight Anti-Semitism. The book opens with the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Ms. Weiss’s hometown. The main focus of this book is that up until recently, American Jews have felt safe. We live in a nation that guarantees our rights as citizens, that allows us to openly practice our faith. That facade of safety is crumbling to reveal the ugliness of hatred and antisemitism.

Ms. Weiss hits the nail on the head. Not only does she go into detail about antisemitism in history, she also talks about how antisemitism has infiltrated American politics. Not just on the right, as one might assume, but on the left as well.

She forces the reader, regardless of faith or family background, to not look away from the darkness of antisemitism. By looking directly at the darkness, the reader is challenged to fight against antisemitism and ensure that all of us are treated respectfully.

I absolutely recommend it.

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The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between Book Review

War has a way of bringing out both the best and the worst in people.

The Unwanted: America, Auschwitz, and a Village Caught In Between, by Michael Dobbs, was published earlier this year. It tells the story of the Jewish residents of Kippenheim, a small town in South Germany. Before World War II, it was a pleasant place to live. The Jewish and non-Jewish residents found a way to co-exist peacefully. That is, until 1940.

In the fall of 1940, the Jews of Kippenheim were forced to leave their homes and live in a camp in France. They knew that their only way out was to emigrate. But the world was closing its door to the Jews of Europe. The odds of getting out of Europe were slim at best. No one knew what was coming, but they knew that their lives were in danger.

This book is amazing. Meticulously researched and written, the book does not read like a college textbook. Using letters, interviews and diaries, the author takes the reader on a journey that can only be described as unsettling. Reading like a novel, the author slowly reveals the fate of the book’s subjects.

I recommend it.

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Thoughts On the Shooting in Jersey City and the Nationality Execution on American Jews

After the Holocaust, we said never again. Never again would let our neighbors and our government kill us for who we are. But the phrase “never again” has become empty.

Yesterday, there was a mass shooting in Jersey City. When the dust finally settled, six people were dead (the suspects included). Among the deceased is a police officer who gave his life to protect innocent civilians and two members of the city’s growing Hasidic Jewish community.

It would be too obvious to talk about gun control and the serious need (which continues to be ignored by certain politicians) for reasonable gun control laws. But then again, it would also be obvious that the suspects were motivated by hate and antisemitism.

In Washington D.C., the man who goes by the title of President of the United States has signed an executive order to protect those of the Jewish faith against discrimination. Specifically, the executive order is in place to protect students, professors and staff on college campuses from being harassed because they are Jewish.

On the surface, this is exactly what is needed. But, like anything that you know who does, there is another side that could be easily ignored. In this executive order, Judaism is defined as a nationality. It is not a nationality. if it was, all Jews would come from one country. But we don’t.

Would one refer to Christians as a nationality? Or Muslims, Hindus, etc as a nationality? No. Like all faiths, we come from all over the world. There are two problems with this mis-categorization. The first problem is that it is wrong. Am I shocked that no one in the administration did their homework? Not at all.

The second problem is that labeling Jews as a nationality could lead to a slippery slope. In the years leading up the World War II, the term “the Jewish race” bounced around Europe like a ping pong ball. Let’s just say that these terms don’t bode well for anyone, especially those in the specific group being mentioned.

I wish we had a President who understood that he needs to be humble, mature, thoughtful and prepared for the job at hand. Instead, we have a man baby with the temper of a tantruming toddler, an ego the size of Texas and an intellect that is non-existent.

G-d help this country.

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The Guest Book Book Review

As much as we wish it, families are far from perfect. There are secrets, scandals, and sins that have a way of passing down through the generations.

Sarah Blake’s new novel, The Guest Book, was published earlier this year. In the 1930s, Kitty and Ogden Milton have it all. A loving marriage, beautiful and thriving children and the status that comes with being one of America’s leading (and wealthiest) families. Then tragedy hits the family hard. To assuage his wife’s grief, Ogden buys a private island to use as a summer home. The island should be a place of refuge and relaxation for the Miltons. Instead, it becomes a symbol of the family’s secrets.

The secret starts with a refusal that could have saved the life of an innocent just before World War II. Twenty plus years later, the secret grows. Len Levy and Reg Paulding are not the usual guests invited to the island. Len is Jewish and secretly seeing one of the Milton daughters. Reg is African-American and the lone person of color in his world.

The secrets begin to unravel in the 2010s. Evie Milton, one of Kitty and Ogden’s granddaughters, comes to the realization with her cousins that the island is in dire financial straits. She also learns, with the help of her husband, that the family secrets are just below the surface. With a little digging, those secrets are revealed.

What I liked about this book was how Ms. Blake established the world that this novel is set in and the casual racism/antisemitism that is part of this world. I also liked the transition from the past to the present. It takes a skilled author to jump from different time periods and different points of view in a way that does not confuse the reader.

My problem with the book is that the ending is kind of expected. The big bombshell that is supposed to be the “long-buried” secret is not really a bombshell. I saw part of it coming nearly a mile away.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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