Rabbi Jeffrey Salkin on Why We Need to Stop Blaming ‘Them’ for Antisemitism

An onlooker stands outside a rabbi’s residence in Monsey, N.Y., Sunday, Dec. 29, 2019, following a stabbing Saturday night during a Hanukkah celebration. (AP Photo/Julius Constantine Motal)

Rabbi Jeffrey K. Salkin serves as the senior rabbi of Temple Solel in Hollywood, Florida. He is the author of Putting God on the Guest List: How to Reclaim the Spiritual Meaning of Your Child’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah, winner of the Benjamin Franklin Award for the best religion book published in the United States, and The Gods Are Broken: The Hidden Legacy of Abraham (JPS, 2013). The views expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Simmer down, everyone.

Time out.

Let’s face it, friends: this has been the worse Hanukkah in New York history — with antisemitic attacks in the larger metropolitan area at an unprecedented level.

Every. Single. Day.

And, let’s also face it: our Jewish ganglia are exposed, our nerves raw, our response systems appropriately firing on all cylinders.

Though, not always accurately.

What do I mean?

It is like the last scene of “Casablanca” — “Round up the usual suspects.”

We like to place the usual antisemitic suspects into varying political file folders: the far left and the far right.

So, the current spate of antisemitic incidents has prompted American Jews to point fingers — in two directions.

Conservatives are screaming: See?!? This is a result of leftist antisemitism — or, of liberal political and juridical policies that give license to Jew-hatred. Or, why aren’t more liberal politicians speaking out?

Liberals are screaming: See?!? This is a result of right wing antisemitism. Look at what has happened over the past few years — Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Poway – not to mention other mass shootings, in churches and other places.

In fact, the ADL concedes that:

The fact is right-wing extremists collectively have been responsible for more than 70 percent of the 427 extremist-related killings over the past 10 years, far outnumbering those committed by left-wing extremists or domestic Islamist extremists — even with the sharp rise of Islamist-extremist killings in the past five years.

All that is true, but…

Don’t oversimplify a very complex, nuanced, situation.

I believe strongly that the current spate of antisemitism in New York cannot and will not fit into an easy dichotomy of left vs right.

What has been happening in New York is something else — and it is very difficult to name.

Let me attempt a kind of nuanced conversation here.

Some of the recent antisemitic acts are emanating from certain sections of the African-American community. Notice that I did not say “black antisemitism.” That is neither fair, accurate, or helpful — especially as it risks furthering the divisions that can exist between blacks and Jews.

First: such tensions are hardly new. They go back at least as far as the 1960s in New York and elsewhere.

They saw their apogee, perhaps, in the events that culminated in the 1968 New York City schoolteachers’ strike — which was the result of community control of the schools, and in which local leaders in Ocean Hill-Brownsville, Brooklyn, dismissed white teachers — many of whom were Jews.

And, yes: much of that tension came out as antisemitism.

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Source: Religion News Service