I thought I’d start my blog with a lesson from our next generation. Young Jewish women who I don’t know, yet make me proud. They were standing up both for themselves, and us.
A lesson in anti-Semitism is presented by three Jewish young ladies trying to make a difference with a TEDx talk. Our next generation, being courageous and unapologetically Jewish. While most Jews have encountered anti-Semitism at some point in our lives, the experiences these thoughtful ladies shared made me shake my head…when will people allow others to live and let live?
We’ve moved on from what Jews call the High Holy Days–Rosh Hashana (our New Year) and Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement), our most holy days of the year. But wait a minute, I just can’t seem to move on. This year something new was added to our service opening announcements that disturbed me and stayed with me far beyond the fasting, thinking about how I could have acted better, and my Perrier water deprivation.
It was the increased diligence of security and announcements throughout the holidays of “Run, Hide and Fight!” This advice was lovingly presented to our congregation—but the need for this advice disturbed me to the point of not quite being able to let it go.
I should be used to it by now. Things seem to get to me more than many others. Like when we were in Israel in July 2014 and found ourselves in the beginning of a war, the subject of my book, “Blasted from Complacency: A Journey from Terror to Transformation in Israel.”
Running and cowering in bomb shelters was an invitation to leave, as far as I was concerned, but not to our friends on the tour with us. Did some others on the tour leave? Yes, but we also have Israel, an entire nation who lives with this terror often—those closest to Gaza face missiles sometimes daily, and they choose to stay. People are different with varying degrees of tolerance for fear. I must have a lower threshold.
In fact, the Jewish National Fund built a 21,000-square-foot child’s indoor playground for the children of Sderot, located in the Gaza envelope where they face continual bombardment from Palestinian missiles. It’s such a regular occurrence, yet often we never hear of it because the Palestinian mortars don’t make the headlines over here in the United States.
But the Sderot Indoor Recreation Center is so much more than a playground, it’s actually a bomb shelter. When the sirens go off, announcing that a missile is heading their way, the children, staff and general population have 15 seconds to find shelter. The children playing here are already in a shelter. God bless the JNF for their compassion and dedication in providing a pleasant shelter for the children even during a scary bombing.
Sorry, for me I’ve grown up on too much chicken soup to want to live like that, but I admire the bravery of those who do.
Thankfully, we didn’t have to use the mantra “Run, Hide and Fight!” this year (at least at our synagogue), but nonetheless on the most holy of days these words hurt my soul.
What does Run, Hide and Fight! mean? It is the recommended steps to take in case of an active shooter or intentional mass casualty event.
First choice: Run like hell to get as far away from the shooter as possible.
Second choice: Hide from the assailant. Lock doors and windows. Block any entrance if possible.
Final choice: Fight! Your Life may depend upon your success. Even prayer books can be used to defend yourself, if necessary.
In Germany, near the Halle Synagogue on Yom Kippur, two people were killed and two others injured. The assailant’s words as he began live streaming his attack: “I think the Holocaust never happened. Feminism is the cause of the decline of the West which acts as a scapegoat for mass immigration. And the root of all these problems is the Jew. Would you like to be friends?” 2
Thankfully, the Halle Synagogue had been prepared and foiled the murderer’s attempts to enter the temple. Nonetheless, he was able to kill other Jewish victims outside.
Unfortunately, Jews often are scapegoats chosen to be blamed for the world’s issues.
As we approach October 27th, the first anniversary of the Pittsburgh Tree of Life Synagogue shooting, it’s time to remember and take a look at where we stand.
In the first six months of 2019, anti-Semitic incidents remained about the same in number as in 2018, with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) recording 780 anti-Semitic incidents.3 However, this is not good news as 2018 was the third highest year of anti-Semitic incidences since the group has tracked these attacks beginning in 1979.4 The second worst year was in 2017 when the ADL recorded a 57% jump in incidents—the worst ever.5
According to the American Jewish Committee (AJC) in a recent poll released just this month, Jews are feeling uncomfortable in the United States regarding anti-Semitism, with eighty-eight percent saying that anti-Semitism is somewhat or a serious problem.6 Forty-four percent believe it’s gotten worse this last year with fifty-five percent believing it was about the same as last year.7 But remember, comparing it to last year is not a good sign with the high incidence of recorded anti-Semitism. What Jews are feeling about this sad state of bigotry is well-founded.
Another sad fact uncovered in the poll was that one third of the Jews answered that they have felt the need to conceal the fact that they are Jewish by avoiding wearing, carrying or displaying things that would identify that they were Jewish—this heartbreaking fact in 2019. Have you done the same? We live after all in the United States of America. Aren’t we all supposed to be able to practice any religion we choose? Reality is never as pretty as theory.
Additionally, the ADL reported that at least 12 white supremacists have been arrested for their roles in attacks or plots against the Jewish community in the United States in the year since the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.8
Tears filled my eyes as I listened to the wounded Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein of Poway, San Diego Chabad, as he spoke at the United Nations in June. He said that during Passover, we speak about how in every generation they rise up against us—but God will spare us. And here we were again. How a gunman with a rifle, came into their synagogue “with enough ammunition to wipe us all out.” But he said, the incident won’t define his congregation, “Am Yisroel Chai,” “the Nation of Israel Lives.”
He continued, “Anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem—it is a problem for the world. It is true that new technologies and media can be used to spread darkness and hatred. But if hate can leap across continents and through it, so can love and light that will defeat it!” Amen.
And the rise in hate crimes toward Jews in heavily populated Jewish areas is alarming—like in New York City. 155 have been anti-Semitic crimes compared to 97 last year, a whopping 60% hike.9 It’s good that officials like Mayor Bill de Blasio have this on their radar screen,10 but why is it happening?
Los Angeles is the second most Jewish city in the United States, in 2018 over 600k lived here.11 According to the LA County Human Relations commission, during 2018 although religious hate crimes dropped slightly, crimes against Jews increased fourteen percent and constituted eighty-three percent of all religion-motivated crimes.12
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s National Director, told the Los Angeles Times, “Things are polarized in ways we haven’t seen in recent memory…When leaders at the highest levels use incredibly intemperate language and repeat the rhetoric of extremists, we shouldn’t be surprised when young people— let alone others—imitate what they see.”13
The Los Angeles Times reported that in December 2018, a group of Ojai jr.high schoolers layed down in the shape of a swastika and shared a group photo in a group chat that included racist comments.14
And finally, I began my blog at the top of the page with something I’m proud of, and at the same time, saddened by. These women are standing up to the hatred and making it clear that it’s not o.k. But why in 2019 is anti-Semitism and hatred of all types growing? Why do so many remain quiet?
Thanks for reading and I as always, invite you to Join Me On My Journey…
1 Speaking out against anti-semitism, by Laila K., Rachel R. and Yakirah M., TEDxYouth@AnnArbor, August 2, 2017, https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=anti-Semitism+TED+Talk&&view=detail&mid=B07D59C5D197D25C653EB07D59C5D197D25C653E&&FORM=VRDGAR
2Twitch video of Germany shooting near Halle synagogue included anti-semitic motives, by Oscar Gonzalez, c/net, October 11, 2019 https://www.cnet.com/news/twitch-video-of-germany-shooting-near-halle-synagogue-included-anti-semitic-motives/
3 We’ve already seen 780 anti-Semitic incidents this year and it’s ‘horrifying,’ group says, by Ryan W. Miller, October 21, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/21/adl-anti-semitic-incidents-2019-united-states-white-supremacists/4051097002/
4 We’ve already seen 780 anti-Semitic incidents this year and it’s ‘horrifying,’ group says, by Ryan W. Miller, October 21, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/21/adl-anti-semitic-incidents-2019-united-states-white-supremacists/4051097002/
5 We’ve already seen 780 anti-Semitic incidents this year and it’s ‘horrifying,’ group says, by Ryan W. Miller, October 21, 2019. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/10/21/adl-anti-semitic-incidents-2019-united-states-white-supremacists/4051097002/
6 AJC 2019 Survey of American Jews on Antisemitism in America https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismSurvey2019
7 AJC 2019 Survey of American Jews on Antisemitism in America https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismSurvey2019
8 Latest ADL Data: At Least 12 White Supremacists Arrested for Plots, Attacks & Threats Against Jewish Community Since the Deadly Pittsburgh Shooting, ADL Press Release, October 20, 2019, https://lasvegas.adl.org/news/latest-adl-data-at-least-12-white-supremacists-arrested-for-plots-attacks-threats-against-jewish-community-since-the-deadly-pittsburgh-shooting/
9 Mayor De Blasio Calling For Severe Consequences For Those Who Commit Anti-Semitic and Bias Crimes, CBS New York, September 18, 2019, https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/09/18/mayor-bill-de-blasio-jewish-high-holy-days-hate-crimes-nypd-anti-semitism-bias-attacks/
10 Mayor De Blasio Calling For Severe Consequences For Those Who Commit Anti-Semitic and Bias Crimes, CBS New York, September 18, 2019, https://newyork.cbslocal.com/2019/09/18/mayor-bill-de-blasio-jewish-high-holy-days-hate-crimes-nypd-anti-semitism-bias-attacks/
11 Why Jews Are Targeted in 72 Percent Of Religious Hate Crimes In LA County, by Aaron Schrank, LAist, October 30, 2018, https://laist.com/2018/10/30/why_jews_are_targeted_in_72_percent_of_religious_hate_crimes_in_la_county.php
12 2018 Hate Crime Report by Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, http://hrc.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/2018-Hate-Crime-Report.pdf
13 “Attacks on Jews, Latinos increased in state in 2018,” LA Times,
July 4, 2019 https://la.adl.org/news/attacks-on-jews-latinos-increased-in-state-in-2018-la-times/
14 Ojai middle schoolers created a human swastika on campus and had a racist, violent group chat, by Brittany Mejia, Los Angeles Times, January 3.2019,
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