Yesterday, an anti-Semitic graffiti was painted on the windshield of a car owned by a Jewish family in Marine Park, Brooklyn. This is the third incident of anti-Semitic vandalism in that area of Brooklyn in the past month. A couple of weeks ago, in a similar incident, three cars were burnt, and swastikas and the letters “KKK” were spray-painted on cars and benches on Ocean Parkway, only a few blocks from where I live. A week before that incident, swastikas and anti-Semitic messages were spray-painted on the doors and sides of a synagogue, and two public libraries in Queens. These incidents are becoming more and more prevalent at an alarming rate, and many people fail to see a very possible pattern of this anti-Jewish sentiment, and the threat that it poses to the Jewish community.
Because of my growing concern, I found myself talking about these incidents with many people recently, and it seems that every incident is viewed independently of the following one, and is given some easy and simple explanation, which does not address anti-Semitism as the problem, but focuses on the individual perpetrators. For example, my Syrian-Jewish doctor always talks about politics when I come in, and on a recent visit I asked him what he thinks about the hate crime on Ocean Parkway. His reply was: “It’s upsetting, but nothing to worry about in terms of anti-Semitism. They say it’s a bunch of kids on drugs.” Then I asked what he thinks about the incident in Queens, knowing that a 40 year old man was caught on camera and arrested for the crime, and he said: “Well, that’s another drunk lunatic” and reassured me there is nothing to worry about. His responses were surprisingly similar to other people’s reactions. Many people seem to believe that if drugs, alcohol, or insanity are related to the perpetrator, then the problem is explained and solved or is perceived as less serious. As if when offenders are drunk or insane—the hatred is temporary or less real and meaningful, perhaps even understood. Surely I would not be surprised to hear that people behind these acts were intoxicated or insane, but it does not prevent or explain the phenomenon, and anti-Semitism does not cease to exist. In fact, anti-Semitism is very much alive and growing within our communities, and we need to be cautious of its expansion.
It is interesting that more and more anti-Semitic incidents have been occurring since the beginning of the recession. An online article that was published on The Week’s website says that, according to a survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League, “as the economy has faltered over the last two years, anti-Semitism has risen.” There’s a man on Occupy Wall Street who blames the Jews for the economic downturn and for “having a firm grip on America’s economy,” he holds a cardboard that says “Hitler’s Bankers,” and “Nazi Bankers of Wall Street.” How surprising. Its not as if the Jews were ever blamed for controlling the economies of other nations in the past. Well, by now nobody takes him seriously since he is “obviously insane” or drunk or both, at least that is the excuse for the fact that he is still there. Yet, if a “crazy” man were standing there, making racist comments, and openly blaming other racial groups for America’s problems, for instance, African Americans, I have a strong feeling that he would not remain standing there nearly as long. And it is not because the man’s anti-Semitic views reflect the views of the OWS protesters—they do not represent them at all—but because there seems to be more tolerance and understanding toward those whose fingers are pointed at the Jews. Somehow, it seems more acceptable and less painful to watch us being blamed because many Jews are not financially disadvantaged. We must never forget that not so long ago, the same accusations against the Jews were made by the Nazis in Germany. It is our moral responsibility to condemn any such accusations on the basis of race or religion, and help prevent anti-Semitism from spreading in the U.S. and worldwide.