When a Torah book is concluded, the assembled call out hazak, hazak, ve-nithazek, be strong, be strong, and may we be strengthened. That is the title and theme of this column.
In Parsha Beha’alotcha, Moses learned that others in his camp were making prophecies. He wasn’t angry, saying the more sharing divine inspiration, the better. But, he told us to look to Joshua for the future. Joshua was a man of action.
Similarly, Jews in the US and Europe often suppose that we, as the narrator in Poe’s Pit and the Pendulum, see terror increasing but feel powerless to escape it. We felt this way during our persecutions in the 1880s, 1930s, and now in the 2020s. But now, we can become like Joshua and take action.
First, let’s open our eyes to discover the prevalence of the danger we are in.
The incidence of Jew-hatred crimes grows year by year. In Germany, antisemitic crime rose 29% in 2021 from the year before; in the US, the increase was an even greater 34%.
Yet the media overlooks the prevalence of antisemitic crimes. When the media reports heavily on hate crimes against minority communities, hate crimes against those populations drop. But the media chooses not to report hate crimes against Jews as widely as it reports hate crimes against other minorities. Newsweek reports that “Jews are per capita the victims of more hate crimes than any other group in the United States—by a large margin. Yet, these instances get among the least media coverage, leading to the incorrect perception that antisemitism is a rare or inconsequential problem. Our study found that Jews received on average less than two news articles per hate crime, whereas hate crimes against Muslims generated more than six.” People don’t realize the size of the Jew-hatred problem and the media seems not to care.
The reality is seven times a day, day in and day out, US Jews are the target of hate crimes. About half come from the far right, a quarter from the far left, and the other quarter from Islamists and others.
One institutional source of hate is BDS, which claims it only targets Israelis and those who don’t hate the Jewish State. But earlier this month (June 3), BDS and other left-wing groups published ‘A Jewish hit list,’ mapping the locations of Jewish institutions in Massachusetts. Its purpose was to incite violence against and to intimidate workers at hundreds of Jewish institutions, such as the Jewish Community Relations Council, Jewish Labor, and the American Jewish Committee. Boston’s JCRC executive director calls this “deeply clarifying with regard to the actual agenda of far-left proponents of BDS in Boston.” Nonetheless, at many universities, BDS holds sway over students’ perceptions of Jews.
So it is great to know that we, like Joshua, do have power. We can and need to speak out.
The American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris calls upon us to take these actions:
- Communicate our concerns to elected officials and hold them accountable. Call their offices, write emails, and use social media to express our alarm. In the US Congress, seven members recently called Israel’s rebirth in 1948 a “catastrophe.” Don’t let them get away with this.
- Similarly, hold institutions accountable. Jew-haters poison our schools and colleges with hatred, bigotry, intimidation, bullying, and ostracism. Jewish students have the right to feel safe, protected, and free to express their beliefs and pride as Jews.
- Show your own Jewish Pride. Don’t feel intimidated by the haters. Place mezuzahs on your doors and kipot on your head. When you feed the poor, proclaim that you are fulfilling your Jewish values.
- Embrace Israel. The anti-Zionist mob aims to destroy the Jewish State. They say it is because Israel is not perfect. But no country is perfect. Since the mob is not denouncing other “not perfect” countries, you know their real aim is to destroy Jewish peoplehood.
- When you see something, say something. Recognize and condemn the virus of antisemitism wherever it arises –from the left, the right, replacement theology Christians, jihadist Muslims, and even some Jews.
- Provide our youth with the knowledge and tools they need to affirm their Jewish identity, now and on college battlefronts. Nowadays, upholding one’s Jewish identity requires not just knowledge, but also courage. Support organizations like Club Z and Stand With Us that advance Jewish pride in our youth.
- Engage Partners. Whether you are LGBT, a social activist, or a bicycle club member, work with others in your group to promote love for the Jewish people and the Jewish homeland.
- Doing any of the above requires knowledge of basic truths about the Jewish people, particularly in the Middle East. So learn. We provide access to web talks at http://IsraelUpdate.INFO.
These two points summarize what we need to do.
- Let everyone know that Jew-hatred is a problem for everyone, not just Jews. Hatred is everywhere. To overcome it, we need everyone to open their eyes, ears, and hearts.
- Understand the past so as not to repeat it. As in the past, those who hate Jews hate all those they perceive as different from them.