The latest antisemitic attack in New York, in which a man brandishing a machete attacked five religious Jews at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, has many Jews worried again about violent antisemitism.
For years, the left — and the media — have told us President Donald Trump is somehow to blame for such horrific attacks, based on false claims that he is linked to white supremacy. But the suspects in many recent antisemitic attacks have hardly been white supremacists.
The fact is that antisemitism is not just confined to white supremacists. On college campuses, antisemitism is often associated with anti-Israel activism, often (though not exclusively) by Muslim student groups. Antisemitism also persists within radical movements in the black community and elsewhere.
The good news is that antisemitism is still is a fringe phenomenon in most American communities. The bad news is that the antisemitic fringe can still be very destructive.
Unfortunately, the media have politicized the issue through shoddy, ideologically-driven reporting. When President Donald Trump recently signed an executive order protecting Jews, for example, the New York Times reported it as the opposite.
The threat is real, but misplaced, irrational fear can lead to paralysis — or, worse, to mistakes that could make the problem worse.
Fortunately, there are steps that we Jews can take to improve our own safety and well-being.
1. Support, and make use, of, the Second Amendment. American Jews have the unique advantage of living in a country where the right to keep and bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution. Jews need to make it clear that if we are attacked, we will shoot back — whether personally or through the assistance of armed guards at our institutions. Israel is strong today because it is willing and able to use force to protect itself. American Jews should be as well.
2. Celebrate and reward leaders who help Jews and Israel. You don’t have to like or agree with President Trump to acknowledge what he has done for Jews and Israel. (Alan Dershowitz called Trump’s executive order “[o]ne of the most important events in the 2,000-year battle against anti-Semitism.”) But too many of our Jewish leaders and institutions have treated Trump as part of the problem. Why should anyone help us, if that is how we respond?
3. Demand political accountability from minority leaders, too. Thirty years ago, during a similar period of antisemitism in New York, Al Sharpton fanned the flames of hatred. Today he is treated as a civil rights leader. He has a television show on MSNBC and every Democrat candidate for president has courted his support. Even Jewish leaders fail to call him out. Sharpton is just one example of an awful double standard that can no longer be tolerated.
4. Light candles. We Jews are understandably sensitive to prejudice and physical threats, but Jewish continuity depends on more than the absence of antisemitism. It also depends on us doing our part to keep our traditions alive, and to pass them on to the next generation. We should not just light candles at Hanukkah; we should also light our candles every Friday evening to welcome the Jewish Sabbath, a practice that has maintained us through generations.
5. Have courage, and know from Whom protection comes. There is no reason to live in fear — especially if we take the steps above. And — as bizarre as it may sound, to some reading this — we Jews need to be less hostile to expressions of faith in the public square. Though earlier generations feared coercion, for understandable reasons, that is no longer a serious risk. People of genuine faith are our best allies in this fight; we should embrace them.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He earned an A.B. in Social Studies and Environmental Science and Public Policy from Harvard College, and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. He is also the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.