It's a new year. It's a new decade. It's time for the Jewish people and our allies to recognize that the sinister nature of anti-Semitism isn’t simply a Jewish problem in the U.S., but a challenge for our society writ large.
The Anti-Defamation League Global 100 Index cited in 2015 that approximately 24 million Americans harbor anti-Semitic attitudes. And it is no question that these bad actors are getting more brazen with their hate — including the string of recent violent anti-Semitic hate crimes in the New York Metropolitan area.
When domestic terrorists target any group based on their religion, it is a crime against all religions.
Those who hate me because I am Jewish can hate you for your faith, skin color, race, sexual orientation, or for any other reason that has nothing to do with the content of your character.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “I had a Dream Speech” from 1963 addressed racism and faith-based hate a generation ago. But how far have we come since then?
With MLK Day weeks away, two King quotes have been coming to mind.
In 1958, he said, “There are Hitlers loose in America today, both in high and low places” and later he referenced the Jews as “history's scapegoats.”
And then in 1968, Dr. King said, “Probably more than any other ethnic group, the Jewish community has been sympathetic and has stood as an ally to the Negro in his struggle for justice.”
When hate filled zealots destroy Torah scrolls at a Beverly Hills synagogue or a disturbed man vandalizes my local Washingtonian Jewish place of worship with swastikas and other Jewish hate they feed the same instability that leads someone to attacking fellow Americans during a Hanukkah party in Monsey.
All of these incidents are alarming to me as a Jew. But our collective American ignorance on the Holocaust doesn't just alarm me — it scares me. When 66% of millennials cannot identify the historical infamy of the Auschwitz death camp and when far too many Americans have doubts that six million Jewish men, women, and children were killed in the Holocaust — we don’t have a Jewish problem. We have an American problem.
This problem is the same one when Texas Church goers are victimized in a mass shooting because of their faith and Walmart shoppers are attacked on a border town. Hate is hate.
Since we are doomed to repeat history if we forget it, I’ve been thinking a lot recently about two historical figures from WWII that didn’t make it into my Social Studies classes: Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemöller and Mohammad V of Morocco.
Niemöller is best known for his societal critique of his fellow Germans, when he said, “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out — because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.”
King Mohammad V stood steadfastly to not succumb to Vichy demands to institute anti-Jewish laws and rules on Morocco’s 250,000 Jews, which ultimately would have led them to Nazi concentration camps and their likely genocide in Europe.
We Americans can do better. And it is up to all of us to do whatever we can do individually and collectively to do better — and as the Jewish virtue says, to try to repair the world.
Jason Langsner is an active member of the American Jewish professional community. Langsner formerly ran the digital strategy for B'nai B'rith International, the Global Voice of the Jewish Community, and participated in the Israel Diplomatic Fellowship program at the Embassy of Israel in Washington, D.C. He has been featured in The Times of Israel, The Jerusalem Post, Haaretz, the Israel Video Network, Washington Jewish Week, eJewishPhilanthropy.com, and other publications. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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