It's dangerous to dress
like a Jew in New York City. A kippah, a long black coat for men, head coverings for women, they are all immediate and obvious signals for those who hate Jews. And of late, the response in far too many cases has been to attack the Jew.
If you look like a Jew, like a traditional Jew, you are an automatic target. Every day there are reports — plural, as in multiple reports — of attacks on Jews in New York.
During the last week of 2019 there were thirteen physical and violent attacks against Jews. Think about it, during the time of year when spirits are high and there is talk of good will towards man, between Tuesday the 24th of December 2019 and Wednesday, January 1, 2020, there were more than a dozen attacks — reported attacks — and we know others go unreported to be reported at a later date if at all.
It is unimaginable that in the most Jewish city in the United States, a city of 1.5 million Jews, one of the most Jewish cities in the world, an identifiable Jew is at risk of being attacked on the street, riding on a bus or the subway, or running simple everyday errands. Attacked, verbally or physically, purely because they look Jewish.
Solutions heard on the streets of New York to counter this new wave of Jew hatred are just as unimaginable. Solution number one is to stop looking like a Jew. To dress like everyone else, to fit in. Solution number two is to move. To move somewhere far, far away. Some say move to Israel. They're not just unimaginable, they are also ludicrous, solutions.
Jews should be free to dress as they wish and free to live where they please. Just like everyone else.
To explain away these hateful attacks, as many are doing, by claiming that the perpetrators are crazy wackos and outliers is to forgive the acts of violence. To say that the perpetrators have been brainwashed or that they are not representative of society as a whole is, at least, an attempt to mollify the situation. But a feeble attempt. The big problem is that mainstream society has not taken a stand and religious leaders specifically have been silent. Where are the Sunday sermons, the outcry? Where are the rallies of solidarity?
So how do we solve the problem of the scourge of anti-Semitism in New York? More police can help. But there are only so many police and they cannot be everywhere. And that is only a quick fix. It doesn't attack the problem, it puts a band-aid on the problem. There must be serious penalties for these violent hate crimes.
The only real option for successfully putting a stop to these attacks against the Jewish population is education. That takes time, it takes effort. It takes the desire to see the situation change. Education not just presented and modeled in schools, but in churches and in homes.
While Jews very much want to understand why they are victims, why people hate them, why they are victims of attack, they are not the people who need educating. Jews want answers because they want to understand and because they are afraid. Most of all, they want answers because they believed that this kind of hatred had become extinct, especially but not exclusively, in one of the greatest cities in the world. But those answers can wait.
First, the violence needs to stop.
In my search to understand where these haters gain their sustenance I found dozens upon dozens of videos of preachers — mainstream, run-of-the-mill, and recognized and respected preachers — sermonizing about "blood sucking Jews." To say that I was shocked, stunned, speechless, is an understatement. The simplicity of the messaging, the repetitiveness of the teachings was staggering. Sermon echoed sermon, preacher after preacher, all emphasizing the exact same narrative damning Israel and the Jew.
The system must be changed. The perpetrators of this hate speech, not just the perpetrators of these hateful and life threatening actions, must be held accountable. They must be stopped. Their teaching must be verboten. There must be a massive movement within the non-Jewish educational and religious communities to teach about not hating Jews. Not hating anyone, but, right now, especially Jews.
The people who teach hatred and anti-Semitism must be shamed by mainstream leadership. It is the only way to stop the madness of modern day Jew hatred. It is the only hope we have for solving the problem of Jew hatred. The only way Jews will once again feel safe walking the streets of New York.
But I am not optimistic about this happening. I fear that those who teach Jew hatred do not want to change, do not want to stop, will resist re-education of themselves and their followers. Jew hatred in New York did not begin in 2019. It merely reared its head in 2019 and when it was not immediately squelched Jew haters became emboldened. And each reported attack emboldened another closet Jew hater to step up and lash out. If they can't stop hating Jews, let them at least retreat into their own cocoons. Let them leave Jews alone.
Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.
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