If you’ve been following the news, you have, undoubtedly, noticed the sudden surge in anti-Semitic attacks worldwide – a phenomenon which, although up until recent days, has not been an acceptable trend, but which, nonetheless, has been gaining strength. Perhaps, more worrisome than the spike is the attempted justification of why it’s suddenly okay to hold Jews in contempt and why they deserve to be attacked.
A recent video clip by American filmmaker/activist Ami Horowitz starkly portrays this troubling trend as he polls members of the African American community residing in Brooklyn, asking them whether or not they dislike Jews and the reason for their hostility towards them. A number of them cited the fact that Jews make up the vast majority of residential and commercial building owners who are not willing to “share” their wealth with the local community, deeming that they are taking advantage of them. Another common complaint stated by African Americans, who spoke to Horowitz, is that Jews are not “really” Americans and that they should return to their “country.”
Backtrack to 1930’s Europe. “Nazi propagandists had swayed the German public into believing that Jews were a separate race. According to the 1935 Nuremberg Laws, Jews were no longer German citizens and had no right to vote.” www.history.com (Anti-Semitism – Definition, Meaning and Reasons For – HISTORY)
You may not have known that in 1938 a Nazi law forced Jews to register their wealth. This came as a direct result of Hitler’s claim that “Jews grew wealthy through theft from Aryans and that Jews were particularly wealthy citizens of Germany.” (www.smithsonianmag.com)
The furthering of these two vicious claims helped to turn the public against Europe’s Jews, because it was all too easy for the poor and disenfranchised to view their, once friends and neighbors, with fear and loathing based on jealousy and envy.
As someone born and raised in Brooklyn, NY in the 1950’s, I can say that Jews and blacks freely intermingled, sat in the same classrooms, became friends and liked and trusted each other. In those days, many of those Jews were, themselves, not financially much better off than blacks, and so the economic gap was minimal. Of course, with the passage of time, many Jews were able to climb the ladder of success and become prosperous while others, of all ethnicities, lagged behind.
In today’s super-charged political climate, where a great emphasis is being placed upon the haves and have-nots, there is a trend to libel and lay blame, at the feet of the more economically endowed, for the ills of those who have not successfully climbed out of poverty. In this case, the Jews are, yet again, being used as the all-too familiar scapegoat. The reasoning is, “If we’re poor, it’s because the Jews have helped facilitate our poverty.”
However, it’s not enough to place the blame on Jews. They must be seen as “not one of us.” Herein, is the genesis for the claim that Jews are not really Americans and should go back to their own country.
The eerie familiarity of this claim was, not so long ago, made by those who unashamedly said that Jews should leave Germany and go to the very few countries that might be willing to take them. This was the memory of German Jew, Kurt Klein who was one of the lucky ones to emigrate to the U.S. in 1937, albeit without his parents who were unable to leave but, instead, deported to Auschwitz.
In 2019 alone, New York has reported 163 anti-Semitic attacks, a 50% increase from the prior year, and New York is not an anomaly. Europe has also had a large increase of anti-Semitic incidents over the past year with attacks targeting synagogues, Jewish cemeteries and institutions as well as ordinary individuals. Just a few weeks ago, it was reported that an Israeli student, who was heard to be speaking Hebrew, on a Paris metro had been assaulted by a teen, originally from Madagascar.
During this past year, Felix Klein, German commissioner to combat anti-Semitism warned members of the country’s Jewish community not to wear kippot (skullcaps) in public, as a result of rising anti-Semitism.
The real fear of being seen as Jew, heard as a Jew or living as a Jew is both worrisome and a growing concern that Jews may no longer enjoy the freedom and carefree lifestyle they’ve been able to take for granted over the last 75 years.
While there is certainly, in most cases, heavy governmental condemnation of these attacks, there is also no guarantee that they will stop. What is clear is that the escalation has already taken place accompanied by what is being viewed as the valid justification for Jews to be vilified, slandered and shunned.
The nations of the world have, for decades, and even centuries been a temporary place of refuge for Jews, but history has shown that the operative word was “temporary” as Jews, time and again, were banished and exiled from the places they called home.
Israel was established to be a permanent homeland for the Jews, a place where they could live in safety and security without the fear of having to hide their identity. More than ever before, Israel feels like the safest place on the planet for Jews to call home and walk with pride in their streets, speaking their own language in an audible voice.
If history is any indication of where events are headed, perhaps, this is, indeed, the moment in time when Jews worldwide should seriously consider Aliyah as a real option. Had it been available in the 1930’s, our numbers today would reflect a very different story.