American Jews are being asked to get used to something that European and Middle Eastern Jews have been accustomed to for thousands of years, namely, to live with targets on their backs.
The United States was always different. Yes, Jew-hatred has always existed, even here in America, but rarely in a violent manner. It was always much more of the we-won’t-let-them-into-our-country-club variety, or quotas at leading universities.
To the extent that Jews died as a result of American antisemitism, it was rare — and, in the most egregious case, it was a form of passive evil, when Jews were not allowed to enter the U.S. during the Holocaust, especially after FDR’s disastrous appointment of antisemite Breckenridge Long as head of the visa section of the State Department during World War II.
But with that painful and monumental exception, the United States has been one of the greatest blessings to world Jewry in our long and painful history.
The nonstop and deadly attacks on American Jews, and especially synagogues, boggles the mind. Are we caught in some weird Hollywood nightmare?
From Pittsburgh to Poway to Jersey City to Monsey to Texas, with many painful stops in between, American Jews are now accustomed to dead congregants, flashing police lights, and security whenever they go and pray.
It was something that as an American Jew I had to get used to when I first moved to Oxford, England, in 1988 to serve as a rabbi, sent by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The tank-like military vehicles and soldiers with submachine guns you saw outside synagogues in London, Rome, Brussels, and Berlin were…. well, downright un-American.
But no more. Welcome to the new status quo in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
But things won’t get better until the Biden administration stops its pathetic game of pretending that Islamic terrorism is only “extremism” – as President Biden called the Texas attack – or that it’s not the Jews specifically who are being targeted, which was the astonishing report of the FBI in Colleyville.
Particularly painful were the comments of FBI Agent-in-Charge Matt DeSarno, who actually said that the attacker was specifically focused on an issue “not directly connected to the Jewish community,” and that there was no immediate indication that the man had was part of any broader plan.
The agent’s comments strained incredulity. Seriously? The hostage-taker, who did not go to a McDonalds or a mall, or a church, but to a synagogue – although the Jews are just 2% of the population – was not focused on something connected to Jews? He was not motivated by hatred of Jews? He was not trying to murder Jews? He was not specifically attacking Jews? It wasn’t a rabbi whom he took hostage?
Never in the history of political correctness has a more confusing statement been made about a blatantly antisemitic attack than this one in Texas.
One wonders whether the FBI – who otherwise performed flawlessly and brought about a miracle by saving the rabbi and the hostages – received their political marching orders from political higher ups.
Eventually, the FBI admitted that the terrorist had “targeted” the synagogue because he was targeting Jews. But who told the FBI at first to declare that the terrorist, who was a British national, was not guilty of a hate crime? Had they examined all his online posts? Did they think that he was simply driving down the interstate in Dallas and decided that in order to free “Lady Al Qaeda,” Aafia Siddiqqui, he should specifically take four Jews hostage in an out-of-the-way synagogue rather than any place else in the Lone Star State?
Here’s the truth.
Islamist radicals hate Jews in their gut. They are congenitally antisemitic, as terrorist Siddiqui showed in her trial where she “demanded” that no Jews serve in the jury. They do not hate Israel because of any dispute with Arab neighbors but because it’s a Jewish state.,
They are antisemitic to their core.
And when the United States overlooks that insidious and murderous hatred and negotiates with Islamist radicals and legitimizes them, that hatred trickles down to the kind of attack we saw in Texas by radicals who believe that Jews are the source of the world’s evil and control all the world’s governments.
Iran speaks openly about annihilating six million Jews. Yet the Biden administration is engaged in talks with them that will ultimately legitimize their nuclear program.
The Hamas charter demands the murder of every Jew in every place on earth. Yet the Biden administration is reversing the Trump-era suppression of funds that aimed to cut off terror entirely.
What are we to think when the greatest and most moral nation on earth, America, does not tell Islamists clearly and unequivocally that unless they repudiate any and all threats against Israel and Jewry – especially those of a genocidal nature – the U.S. will have nothing to do with them and will keep them on an enemies list?
The Texas attack dare not become the new normal for American Jews. Having lived in Western Europe for 11 years, I know what that normal looks like.
I know what it’s like to hear my students on campus tell me that they take their kippahs off because they’re afraid to wear them and get attacked.
I know what it’s like to hear from residents that I should not put up a public menorah because I’m just going to bring the haters out to attack the community.
And I know what it’s like to grow accustomed to hearing elected officials and Members of Parliament give speeches laced with Jew-hatred, as British Jews because accustomed to with Jeremy Corbin, and which American Jews are now hearing from Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
All this was utterly foreign to American Jewry. And it must remain so.
Ultimately, we have no one to rely on but ourselves.
We must take to the airwaves to demand accountability from elected officials to protect the Jewish community and to never excuse any form of antisemitism.
We must advertise against Hollywood influencers who spew anti-Israel hatred and antisemitic bile, which is becoming increasingly frequent, and which our organization, the World Values Network did, against Dua Lipa and the Hadid sisters during the May 2021 Gaza War.
We must, as a community, oppose any new deal with Iran that funds the regime without a total and complete cessation and repudiation of any and all threats against Jewry and Israel, as well as an end to Iran’s nuclear program.
We must choose and support elected officials who have no qualms about calling out Islamist attacks for what they are — not just extremism, but terrorism.
Finally, we must reach out to our Muslim brothers and sisters and make it clear to them that they dare not allow a great world religion to be represented or usurped by murderers and Jew-haters. It’s time for our Muslim brothers and sisters to repudiate the likes of the Texas terrorist even more vehemently than us Jews and help create a new era of Jewish-Muslim peace.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post describes as “the most famous Rabbi in America,” has just published Kosher Hate: How to Fight Antisemitism, Racism, and Bigotry. Follow him on Instagram and Twitter @RabbiShmuley.