Beyond the Cusp

July 29, 2012

But It Can’t Happen Here in America

I was raised during the hay day for Reform Judaism in America. Everybody in the congregation were Democrats and the talk of the day was usually about the last rally or protest march the Rabbi had participated in and which other Civil Rights luminaries were also there. There was never any talk about anything of an uncomfortable nature as everybody basically agreed. The one issue which was universal was that in the modern world anti-Semitism was dead and buried, never to return and rear its ugly head. Unfortunately for me, I had heard disparaging words from some in my public junior high and high school who held great hatred for Jews and had been asked if I agreed with them. You see, I do not exactly look Jewish, whatever that means. But having blue eyes, blonde hair, well, back then it was, and a broad German nose, I was mistaken by some as likely to be from the fatherland and thus suspect of having “normal” proclivities including no fondness for Jews. In a way, I still see this as an advantage I have had as it allows me to see the world from a different perspective than most other Jews. Still, the principle I was raised under was that anti-Semitism died with the realization of the death camps and the horrors of the Holocaust, the Shoah, and were never to rise again. The world, we were told, had learned the lesson and would never repeat such horrors again. My other predisposition which made me out of sorts is that I held a lesser view of humankind than my altruistic optimists and knew deep down that history repeats itself and the history of the Jews taught that the one thing mankind had never learned was to accept the Jewish people. I believed the part in the Haggadah used for the Passover Seder where it says, “In every generation there are those who rise up against us.” I saw no reason that would change this little morsel of ancient wisdom and the world today bears this out.

There can be little doubt about the animosity and hatred seething within much of the Muslim world towards Israel and the Jews. All one needs do is peruse the translated news reports and speeches made throughout the Middle East and North African nations on MEMRI to find ample evidence proving the existence of anti-Semitism, some of it of the worst kind equal to that of the Nazis. But still there are a majority of Jews who live among populations where the Jews are a plurality or significant part of their communities and this has produced a false sense of safety and security for many Jews. This is particularly true of the assimilated Jews who feel they are an accepted and respected part of society. Maybe in the sectors of society where they live and circulate such is true, but not universally. Whenever you relate to these Jews who live in gilded Jewish ghettoes a case where pure unadulterated hatred and anti-Semitism has been revealed such as the placing of graffiti including swastikas, derogatory statements such as “Jews go home”, Hitler was Right”, “Judenfrei” or “Judenrein” on a synagogue or in a near uniformly Jewish neighborhood they will immediately deny the threat and dismiss it with it was the pranks of some hoodlum kids who did not know what they were even writing, it’s not to worry. I, unfortunately, have experienced different and have usually lived in neighborhoods where I am likely the only Jew living within miles. I have way too often in my life met people who upon hearing that I am Jewish are amazed and confess that I am the first Jew they have ever met, an experience most Jews will never have as they travel in carefully crafted sectors in society. So they continue blissfully unaware that trouble and hatreds are returning and this time they are possibly even a greater threat. But I am still assured in Synagogue that “It can never happen here, not in America.”

Another reason that most of my fellow Jews never hear of the anti-Semitism which is growing throughout the world is due to the sources of their news. Mostly they listen to NPR and read newspapers which veer way to the left and as such never discuss such things. They would never read any conservative news, even Jewish or Israeli conservative news sources such as Arutz Sheva. If they did, they might have read about the increase in the number and severity of graffiti attacks upon the Hareidim living in their communities in New York City. In the past six weeks there have been a consistent spate of such attacks with numerous swastikas being found two or three times a week spread in all sections of their neighborhoods. They would have read of some recent attacks upon these same religious Jews in their neighborhoods. They have heard of some of the worst and most violent attacks such as the one recently which murdered a Rabbi and three precious children gunned down in front of a Yeshiva in Toulouse, France or the suicide murder bombing of Israeli vacationers boarding their bus in Burgas, Bulgaria. Even these incidents of anti-Semitism they reduce to the actions of small and insignificant groups of militant Muslims who pose no real threat. The saddest part of the blind eyes so many of my fellow Jews turn towards this growing animosity and threat is how almost perfectly it follows the same exact statements, refutations, dismissals, and excuses which I have read were part and parcel of Jewish reactions to the changing political scene in Weimar Republic Germany. The Jews who were assimilated into what they saw as the most progressive society with high levels of education and apparently total acceptance of Jews in the circles in which they traveled who said things such as, “It can never happen here in Germany” and “We are accepted as a vital part in German society and are University professors, judges, and in every professional pursuits and we have never been more secure in a society in Jewish history.” That fell apart as the economy failed and we all know what came next. I am pained but can see it happening again, maybe not in the United States, not at first, but in Europe and the Middle East it is rushing forward like a runaway train and will not end well.

As far as the United States, let me retell two articles from this past week and supply you with a link to each in an Israeli news source. Needless to say, these stories were not widely covered in the liberal press my fellow Jews read so they likely missed these items. The first report tells of a seventy-five year old Jewish woman who lives in an apartment in Charleston, South Carolina. The article is titled, <a href= target=blank > “Jewish Woman Finds Swastikas Scrawled on Apartment.”</a> Estelle Whitney was born during WWII and remembers, as she told a local news station, “In order to go to preschool I had to wear a Jewish star pinned to my dress. I would say to my mom, I don’t want to wear this, even asking what is it. You don’t know what it is when you are three years old.” She was returning home from a brunch to find five swastikas scrawled on the walls of her apartment. They were obviously intended for her and drove her to wonder, as she pointed out, “Give me a reason you know, why do you hate me, what did I do to you?” She recalled that, “I was shaking like a leaf. I saw them from the corner of my eye right away. The swastika. I couldn’t believe it. My parents were Holocaust survivors, it really means a lot to me, this terrible thing.” Estelle Whitney was born in Paris, France where she saw more than her share of anti-Semitic hatreds and has lived in Charleston for over a decade without encountering such vile hatreds. She is shocked and worried and will likely not rest the same until those who committed this heinous act are caught and she is given some answers and assurances that such will not be repeated.

The second story is, believe it or not, even worse. It takes place in the northeast corner of Pennsylvania in Wayne County. The article is titled, ” Five Charged with Terrorizing Jewish Camp.” I will likely not do this story anywhere near the justice in supplying a complete description here, so please go and read the entire story, it is horrifying. These five human monsters perpetrated a multiple event over multiple days that instilled terror and life-threatening horror on a camp for children. Their initial harassment simply consisted of driving in circles at high speed in order to damage several sports fields on the grounds of Camp Bonim. In the next assault they targeted campers by firing a paint gun while at least one was heard to have shouted obscene racial slurs and told the Jewish campers, “I’m going to kill you, you (expletive) Jews” and “Go back where you came from.” The next attack occurred in the middle of the night including an attempt to run over a camper with their truck only missing by a few feet from potentially killing the child. The next day one of the perpetrators targeted a counselor from the camp who was in town outside a local store where he rammed him with his vehicle and broke his leg. All five have been caught and have confessed to at least some of the charges and will be held for trial. But, remember, it can’t happen here in America.

Beyond the Cusp

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