Normalizing antisemitism is far from woke

Normalizing antisemitism is far from woke

Dr. Alan Kadish

Dr. Alan Kadish of Teaneck is the president of the Touro College and University System.

While the outcome was a thousandfold preferable to what might have occurred, the threat unleashed in Colleyville, Texas, is far from over. The danger still exists in shrugging off the recent hostage situation at Beth Israel Congregation as an isolated incident, or as one without an antisemitic motive. We rather must recognize this taking of hostages at gunpoint as the most recent episode in a series of attacks on Jews, Jewish establishments, and in particular, Jewish places of worship. Indeed, if we hope to make any progress in reversing the frightening trend of domestic terrorism against Jews, we must view recent attacks on synagogues as a byproduct of normalizing antisemitism, just as attacks on Black churches were the result of systemic racism.

Hate crimes against Jews are by far the most common hate against religious groups in the United States, even when adjusted for population. In the last three years, people praying innocently at Jewish houses of worship in the United States were targeted in a series of unprecedented attacks. In 2019 in Poway, California, a terrorist shot and murdered a woman and injured three others on the last day of Passover. The next attacker that year failed to bomb Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Pueblo, Colorado and poison its members, but shortly afterward, a man in North Miami Beach, Florida, was shot in the legs as he was unlocking the front doors of the synagogue before a religious service. Later that year, on the seventh night of Chanukah, a stabbing attack at a congregation in Monsey left five people severely wounded and resulted in one man’s death.

Why attack houses of worship? No one regards these institutions as political strongholds. The synagogues that were attacked, are, just like the Black churches, symbols of peace, outreach, and cooperation. Why did members of hate groups choose specifically to bomb Black churches, as opposed to other institutions? While some religions historically have justified violence, many Black churches, like synagogues, clearly were places of tolerance and non-violence; institutions that promoted support for their congregants and co-existence.

Co-existence. That is precisely what racists and antisemites won’t tolerate.

Some officials and news outlets were quick to posit that taking hostages at the Texas synagogue was not necessarily antisemitic. They emphasized that the man who was threatening the lives of innocent people was only seeking freedom for his “sister,” Aafia Siddiqui, a woman convicted of plotting to murder U.S. officials during the Afghan War. These reporters neglected to mention that Siddiqui, absurdly, had blamed Israel and Jews for her incarceration.

Racism and antisemitism have a long history, and have thrived even in enlightened and civilized societies. Antisemitism was never a monopoly of any partisan extreme, but today it has re-emerged because it has been tolerated. Antisemitism has not been dealt with aggressively enough to make a difference in the rising number of incidents. Antisemitic comments—subtle and overt—now are considered acceptable across the political spectrum. Just as the racist environment of the early 1960s and beyond allowed people to believe they could bomb Black churches with impunity, the environment that now is tolerated has become a breeding ground for further racism and violence against Jews. Some have obscured their hate by claiming that they only oppose what they consider “apartheid” policies of the State of Israel and not all Jews, a claim never accurate but even less defensible today with a new Israeli government comprised of nearly 25% Arab ministers.

Today, antisemitism may be a problem only for the Jews, but we have learned from history that the malady does irreparable harm to the societies that tolerate it. Like any dangerous virus, this millennia-old pernicious hate cannot be ignored, or it will continue to spread and spin out of control. We must stop denying its existence and act decisively to be sure it is eliminated.

The first step is to censure both subtle and overt antisemitism publicly, even when it emanates from political allies.

Dr. Alan Kadish of Teaneck is the president of the Touro College & University System.