After the end of Shavuot, the holiday in which Jewish people joyfully commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the Jewish community of Los Angeles concluded it by the new ritual of going to clean off the hateful graffiti from their houses of worship while picking up the broken glass from the black nationalist and radical leftist night of broken glass in Los Angeles.
One small business owner described a “late Saturday night with people driving down the Fairfax district streets screaming, ‘effing Jews'”.
At the latest count, at least 5 synagogues in the area were vandalized, as were three Jewish schools.
One would think that the hateful vandalism of 8 Jewish institutions and a mob screaming slurs after trashing Jewish businesses would lead to some sort of meaningful response. But that would be the optimistic perspective of people who haven’t experienced the unmitigated level of cowardice and appeasement that comprises Jewish institutional life at virtually every level.
In June, my inbox has been littered with missives from assorted Jewish organizations, institutions, and even, shamefully, synagogues, some good and some bad, wringing their hands over George Floyd’s death, and timidly condemning violent responses, while failing to mention the racist attacks on Jewish businesses and institutions by supporters of the anti-Semitic Black Lives Matter group.
While a few national organizations condemned the “F___ Israel” and “Free Palestine” graffiti on one synagogue, that has been the extent of it. Not only the Reform and Conservative movements, but the Modern Orthodox movements have largely remained silent about the defacement of synagogues and the destruction of Jewish businesses. The OU press office put out a release which means racism four times and the vandalized synagogues and businesses not at all.
The Rabbinical Council of America put out a press release describing Floyd’s death as a “murder” while claiming to “stand together with all who fight racism, bigotry and hatred.” Perhaps the RCA could also take a minute to stand with their Jewish brethren.
Major synagogues in the Los Angeles area have piously condemned racism, but not the hatred that defaced synagogues and schools. Many of those synagogues belonged to people from outside their community, but their solidarity, which reaches to a dead ex-con in Minneapolis, can’t seem to stretch far enough to touch the Moroccan and Haredi Jews who suffered in the riots.
Generic condemnations of violence are not enough. Not only have Jewish organizations failed to call out the anti-Semitism of Black Lives Matter, they’ve effectively jumped on to its hateful cause. And they have maintained a hushed silence about the devastation wreaked on the Jewish community.
The same folks lecturing us on the dangers of remaining silent in the face of hate are silent when the hate is directed toward Jews. That is the sad legacy of American Jewish civil rights activism which fights anti-Semitism by joining together with anti-Semites to fight racism. A mere 70 years of folly isn’t all that much when you’re thousands of years old. But it ought to be enough. Let it be enough.
You don’t fight anti-Semitism by running away from it. And certainly not by running toward it.
The purpose of fighting anti-Semitism isn’t to defeat an abstract hatred. That’s the dead end of fighting racism. It’s to maintain our own rights and dignity. That’s not a privilege we’ve always had.
But we do now.
Decency and self-respect alone compel us not to remain silent. And if we do remain silent, while chanting the cause of those who vandalized our houses of worship and shops, we will have neither decency nor respect. We will have become as contemptible in our own eyes as we already are in the eyes of the Black Lives Matters pogromists who did this knowing that there would be no response.
Fighting anti-Semitism doesn’t mean launching educational programs. It means, as Mordechai told Esther, “If you remain silent now, salvation will come to the Jews from some other place, and you and your father’s house will perish.”
All those many generations ago, the Jews faced genocide because one stubborn old sage refused to take a knee before a brutal thug and abandon the aspirations of his people.
A Jewish organization or synagogue that takes a knee before brutal thugs and refuses to speak up when Jews are attacked is not worthy of claiming to speak for Jews. It is not worthy of Jewish support or loyalty. I, personally, will not donate to any Jewish organization or synagogue that sends me a George Floyd letter, but says nothing of the pogrom in Fairfax. I encourage you to do the same.