By Rachel Jacobi
On Saturday, December 28th, less than ten minutes from where my family lives in Monsey, a man burst into a Chasidic rabbi’s house and proceeded to stab multiple people. My family’s reaction was one of fear, vulnerability, and intense dismay.
I was horrified, but I was not surprised.
The attack was the climax of a particularly nightmarish week. On Monday, the first day of Hanukkah, a 65-year-old man in Manhattan was punched by someone yelling “F**k you, Jew,” while in Brooklyn a father and son were assaulted from behind. Tuesday, a young man walking in Brooklyn was the recipient of anti-Semitic slurs and had a drink thrown on him. Wednesday, a man dressed in Orthodox garb was harassed and then punched. Thursday, a mother was hit by a woman while she was with her child. Friday, another woman was charged with assault for slapping three Jewish women.
The escalation of attacks over Hanukkah culminated in an unpredictably grotesque manner Saturday night when four people were stabbed by Grafton Thomas, 37, when he burst into Rabbi Rottenberg’s home wielding a machete.
The stabbing in my hometown happened after the shooting in Jersey City, where three Jewish people were targeted and murdered by anti-Semites. It happened after a synagogue in Beverly Hills was vandalized. It happened after a shooter murdered 11 people in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This is after the onslaught of anti-Semitic attacks these past few years.
Despite the measures taken to halt the violence (an increase in police presence in Jewish communities), the hate is still there. Approximately 57.8% of all religious-based hate crimes are directed at Jewish people, a whopping number considering that Jewish people are a minority group. America promises religious tolerance and equality. We are a long way from all minorities, especially Jews, being the full beneficiaries of these lofty ideals. The escalation, however, of dislike, discrimination, and even hatred leading into gross violence, should be unacceptable across the board.
I cannot understand unjustified and baseless hatred. I cannot understand violence against innocent people. Yet the pervasive anti-Semitism in our country continues to spread like an uncontrollable epidemic.
We need politicians to go beyond a simple “condemnation” every time an anti-Semitic attack occurs. We need politicians to start acting, and not just by increasing police presence in Jewish neighborhoods. Increased education in school systems about tolerance and the groundlessness of stereotyping, hatred, and bias is imperative. It is necessary to crack down not just on violent stabbings, but on anti-Jewish rhetoric on the Internet. Hateful rhetoric incites assault on an alarmingly frequent basis. At this point, the anti-Semitic sentiments so commonly, causally, and repeatedly expressed should be treated as threats and immediately removed.
Rockland boasts itself as one of the safest counties in the U.S. That safety doesn’t apply to my family, because safety is a privilege, not a right, if you are Jewish. When my brothers go to synagogue now, they have to remain alert. Their high schools are compromised — there is a drastic increase in security. My fear is that if the anti-Semitism epidemic in our country isn’t tackled properly, and immediately, walking around safely while wearing a kippah will soon be a reality of the past. In many ways it already is: European Jews no longer have that freedom. Is it a far stretch to say that I see old patterns re-emerging in America? I think not.
Until our society takes a more active role in reducing anti-Semitism in the media, on college campuses, the Internet, and multiple other areas, anti-Semtisim will relentlessly exist.
Right now, the world continues onward, while we remain vulnerable.