By Rabbi Aryeh Spero
There are today powerful forces arrayed against the Jewish people—not simply from the right, but predominately and with greater cultural influence from the political left.
(January 23, 2020 / JNS) The Jewish community is experiencing an explosion of anti-Jewish attacks, both physical and ideological. Jews have been gunned-down or stabbed in Pittsburgh, San Diego, Jersey City and Monsey, and are being pushed, beaten and cursed on the streets of New York, in particular Brooklyn. The attacks are happening against the community and individuals, in Jewish institutions and on subways, almost on a daily basis.
We have entered a new time.
Jewish students on campuses all across America are singled out for bullying and harassment by Islamic student groups and anti-Israel professors, not only for being supporters of Israel but simply because they are Jewish. The influential New York Times and media outlets such as MSNBC have ramped up their historic anti-Israel rhetoric, as well as their distaste for Orthodox and Zionist Jews. Beyond doubt, the harsh condemnations of all things Israeli and Jewish, the demonization and pejorative labels have trickled down from the ivory towers to the neighborhoods on the ground.
Though neo-Nazis, leftist anti-Zionists and Jew-haters within the African-American and Islamic communities often disagree, they are united in their animus towards Jews. There are today powerful forces arrayed against the Jewish people—not simply from the right, but predominately and with greater cultural influence from the political left.
Thus far, those in the establishment have been unable or unwilling to stop the daily harassment of Jews on campus and on New York City streets. Aside from the trauma of what we are witnessing on the streets, many in the Jewish community now rightfully acknowledge that we have a crisis in Jewish organizational leadership. Our major organizations—be it the ADL, the JCRC or many Federations—are failing us.
Furthermore, the loyalty of these organizations with liberal/left ideology renders them unwilling to point to and combat the pernicious negativity against Jews coming from members within certain minority groups. Similarly, they are reluctant to condemn unequivocally the anti-Jewish rhetoric coming from groups within the Democrat Party, which is dangerously filtering down across the country and into the streets. That said, we maintain that at this juncture, antisemitism has not gripped the American heartland.
In light of this dereliction of duty, a “Jewish Leadership Summit” of experienced activists and grassroots leadership was convened to set forth a set of serious proposals to be discussed by local Jewish communities and individual Jews who want to protect America’s Jewish institutions and people. We can no longer wait. The history of these organizations, as well as the present make-up of their staff and bureaucrats, does not give us confidence. Moreover, it is a valued American tradition for grassroots movements and individuals to energize their sphere when establishment groups have grown tired and pre-occupied elsewhere.
The following recommendations from the summit are intended as a jumping-off point for Jews, as well as our non-Jewish friends, to begin a forceful and honest discussion as to what needs to be done by Jews for self-defense and protection. Consider it a “10-Point Call to Action.” We will be issuing a formal Declaration in several days.
1. SELF-DEFENSE AND SELF-RESPECT
Promote the ethic and mitzvah of self-protection.
Encourage Jews to be trained in legal self-defense measures, e.g., martial arts and responsible firearm use and non-lethal weapons such as mace.
Promote athletic and strength-building activities to instill a self-confident demeanor.
2. INSTITUTIONAL AND SYNAGOGUE PROTECTION
In addition to outside hired security guards, members of congregations should enroll in synagogue protection programs.
3. NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH PATROLS
Densely populated Jewish neighborhoods should establish patrols or shomrim organizations to constantly do walk-throughs on the streets.
While we welcome the help of outside groups, it is incumbent that we bear a responsibility to protect our families. The image of a toughened neighborhood will discourage would-be perpetrators.
Rabbis and Jewish educators should encourage such avenues of self-protection.
Promote tax credits for community safety patrols and training.
4. LEGAL REPRESENTATION
Recruit pro bono lawyers willing to represent Jewish victims of attacks and harassment, as well as those Jews who fought back in self-defense and are now being sued by the perpetrators or prosecuted by government entities.
5. COMMONSENSE JUSTICE THAT PROTECTS VICTIMS
Work against dangerous ideas such as “bail reform” and “justice reform” measures that release violent, hate-based criminals back to the streets free to re-attack, and give victims’ and witnesses’ names and contact information to criminals.
6. STOP FUNDING ANTI-JEWISH ENTITIES
Do not fund candidates who either are unwilling to explicitly condemn antisemitism in and of itself, or candidates who align themselves with radical causes that culminate in anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rhetoric.
Stop funding and donating to colleges that allow BDS movements on campus, student organizations steeped specifically in anti-Israel programming, or professors and departments pushing anti-Israel boycotts and maligning supporters of Israel.
Stop giving to those Jewish organizations that consistently find fault with and criticize Israel, and elevate and “dialogue” with anti-Israel spokespeople.
Do not fund groups or individuals that use incendiary language against Zionism and speak of “white privilege.” This incendiary language ends up fueling attacks against Jewish institutions and individuals, especially in urban neighborhoods.
7. HONESTLY IDENTIFY SOURCES OF VIOLENCE
So as to stop violence against Jews, it is crucial to identify those sources even if it comes from minority groups. There is an excess of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric coming out of mosques and madrassas as well as militant segments in the black community.
So as to be confronted they must first be exposed. Demands must be made of leaders in those communities to speak against anti-Jewish phraseology and to shun and ostracize those members engaged in it.
8. CALL THE ATTACKS WHAT THEY TRULY ARE
These attacks should not be whitewashed simply as a form of hate or intolerance or mental illness. It is specifically Jew-hatred. We cannot assume that those who speak against hate and intolerance are equally against antisemitism.
9. NEW JEWISH LEADERSHIP
The failure of establishment major Jewish organizations to effectively condemn or diminish the antisemitism on American campuses, in mosques, in minority neighborhoods, and among a host of “progressive” officials is due to their choosing leftwing politics over the needs of the Jewish community. This is a sacrifice that most sane Jews should not be willing to offer.
The survival and safety of the Jewish People is the greatest of Jewish goals and values and must override the professed leftwing values that often collide with Jewish survival. Thus, it seems necessary for concerned Jewish citizens to not fully depend on the major Jewish organizations that very likely will malign and sabotage Jewish self-defense efforts that do not conform to the liberal/leftist goals prioritized by establishment organizations.
We call for a new grassroots movement as well as courageous individual Jews who will be needed to fight the battles that may reach our doorsteps.
10. PRO-ACTIVELY ENGAGE LOCAL LEADERS
Reach out to local, state, and federal law enforcement, first responders and government officials.
Make relationships with local media outlets to ensure that attacks on Jews are accurately and consistently reported.
Conversations with neighboring communities should not be done under an attitude of appeasement nor with the sociological guilt that too often dominates what poses as “dialogue.” They should be honest conversations, conducted with self-confidence and with an expectation, without excuse-making, for civil behavior. Excuses for antisemitism under a call for “understanding” should not be countenanced. Network with communal and civic organizations, community-based groups, and religious leaders, Jewish and non-Jewish.
Respect the customs and culture of the community wherein you live.
The power of education, especially for our young people, has great potential. A forthright curriculum needs to be drafted, for as of yet the curriculum and pamphlets being distributed have not accomplished the task.