A deluge of anti-Semitic actions has occurred since the election. One report cited 124 incidents in the past week. Cemetery vandalism is now a regular story on the nightly news. In St. Louis, over 100 gravestones were vandalized in a Jewish cemetery, which took a lot of equipment and people and therefore was well organized, according to police. Similar vandalism occurred recently in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia.
The Anti-Defamation League reports an alarming uptick in such incidents since the election. The group reports that more than two-thirds of 19,253 antisemitic tweets targeting journalists during the presidential election campaign had been sent from roughly 1,600 Twitter accounts. (Reported in a Feb 26, 2017 article in the Jerusalem Post, by Michael Wilner and Tamara Zieve)
Now the ADL is investigating over 70 bomb threats phoned in to Jewish community centers over the past two months – and into its own headquarters, prompting a brief evacuation last week.
The White House has seemed reluctant to respond to this. At last week’s news conference President Trump silenced an Orthodox reporter who raised questions about anti-Semitic incidents, and Trump then responded defensively, as if he had been accused of anti-Jewish sentiments. At last, after repeated requests, Trump did come forth with a strong denunciation of these hate crimes.
But these current acts of vandalism, painting swastikas on synagogues and temples, on Jewish schools, and in dorms at colleges. lead to questions about why anti-Semitism is so persistent in the US, and where it is rooted.
White nationalist literature encourages the fear that Christian America is being overwhelmed by non-Christian Americans. This thinking triggers strong anti-immigrant sentiment, especially against Moslems, but also against Jews who have been here for many generations.
An alarming rise in incidents of public harassment, in schools and on the streets, afflicts Moslem women who have their hijabs yanked off while being subjected to ugly slurs.
The old Ku Klux Klan vigilantism against Jews, immigrants of all faiths, and blacks seems to be resurrected in the new alt-right white nationalist movements, which ars closely allied in thought to the old Klan, and spread the same fears.
The online magazine Slate reported in early February that a conservative using the pseudonym “Publius Decius Mus,” wrote a remarkable essay in support of Trump before the election. The pseudonym alone gave a glimpse into the writer’s thinking. The real-life Decius was a Roman consul who sacrificed himself to the gods for the sake of his embattled army. The internet Decius called on conservatives to embrace Trump—to back the vulgarian who mocked their ideals, sacrificing style for the sake of saving the country as they knew it.
As Decius sees it, American democracy is not a tradition of pluralism, but one of exclusion, in which white Americans stand as the only legitimate players in political life.
Decius has since been revealed as Michael Anton, a former George W. Bush administration speechwriter, who now works for President Trump.
And he isn’t the only figure in the Trump circle who holds these views. Attorney General Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, his former aide Stephen Miller (who was Ted Cruz’ speech writer, and is now President Trump’s speech writer) and Chief White House Advisor Stephen Bannon, all have long histories and deep roots in this line of white nationalist thinking.
While the nation debates the nature and meaning of their writings, and while the FBI searches for those who carry out acts of vandalism, the people who are terrorized by these acts are paying dearly, paying with hearts broken by the desecration of their houses of worship and vandalism in the graveyards where their beloved are interred, paying dearly with fear that interrupts their sleep, and anxiety when they send their children out the door to school: America’s Jews and Moslems. Their suffering, is this land they love, serve, have advanced and benefitted, is unconscionable.
America’s Jews are integrated into every phase of American life. They report our news brilliantly, are the nation’s economists, physicians, comedians, song writers, writers, film-makers, and funders of our political elections.
America’s Moslems, more newly arrived, include many whose advanced education makes them a boon to our society. They are doctors, professors, hi-tech geniuses and historians and journalists (Ali Velshi of CNN likes to say that he, a real Kenyan born Moslem, is quite certain Barak Obama is not one of his people). America’s newly arrived Moslems also pump gas for our elderly who can no longer use self-serve, repair our cars, and drive the cabs that make New York city life possible.
Indeed, we cannot talk about acts of hatred toward Jews in the US without talking about the same hatred towards Moslems, for they are intertwined in white nationalist philosophy and in the dimwitted understanding of the undereducated who turn these thoughts into crimes.
Christians, now walking in the days of Lent, are following a Jewish man to his Roman cross, where he will die in love for the God he made available to us all, to us – the immigrants whom he invited into his heart and his faith, into the green pastures of God’s love.
A faithful Lenten devotion in 2017 would be a public act of thanks and welcome for Jews and Moslems, our beleaguered neighbors, our brothers and sisters in the Lord.
Image: Hate Crimes Pie Chart, from The Forward.