As I write this, the Jewish holiday of Purim is underway. It is a holiday in which we celebrate a significant victory over anti-Semitism. But it was surely not the victory over anti-Semitism, for there have been many since.
That we should have to fight these battles now, here in America where a recent Pew Research Center poll found (again) that Jews are the most warmly regarded religious group in the country, seems incongruous.
But those of us of a certain age might recognize the existence of a constant hum of hatred, which ebbs and flows over any political landscape. Whether it is hatred of Jews or of African-Americans, of Muslims or immigrants, of indigenous peoples or Latin Americans, it is there. And now, in 2017, it is, once again, rising.
And once again, Jews in Louisville must address anti-Semitism in our community. Whether it is the five recent instances in our area public schools or the chilling bomb threat against our Jewish Community Center.
There have been over 131 bomb threats at 87 JCCs, according to the JCC Association of North America. In addition, hundreds of gravestones have been toppled at Jewish cemeteries from Philadelphia and Rochester to St. Louis.
In Evansville, IN, a gunshot was fired through the window of a synagogue classroom.
“American Jews assumed that anti-Semitism had largely been overcome,” said Jonathan Sarna, professor of American Jewish history at Brandeis University. “And then all of a sudden, unexpectedly, anti-Semitism of a virulent kind came roaring back.”
Let’s be clear: This hatred for the Jews comes from both the right and the left. Pointing fingers from one side of the aisle to the other is both flippant and ineffectual.
We must address every incident of anti-Semitism. But we must also address incidents of racism. We must stand behind our black brothers and sisters, we must support our Muslim friends. We must speak up for the rights of immigrants. The words of our rabbinic sage, Hillel, still ring true: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?”
(Robert Sachs, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council, can be reached at email@example.com.)