We are all understandably frightened and angry about the recent hate crime against Jews in West Hollywood. I heard about it in a text from a Temple member while visiting my family in Minneapolis; a city still reeling from the murder of George Floyd and its aftermath. A city that arguably woke up an entire nation to hatred and injustice; bringing about a long-overdue reckoning with ourselves.
Despite searching on television from my sister’s basement guest bedroom I saw nothing about what happened. Given the current mood and direction of our nation, I thought a mob of thugs caravanning around the second-largest city in the country, entering a restaurant, spewing hate speech, targeting and then assaulting a minority would have prompted stories on the national news and statements from politicians left, right and center. Where, I wondered, are our woke friends with whom we have marched to decry racism, xenophobia, and bias? Where are the statements of solidarity? Where is the outrage? Is it because the attack is perceived as an anomaly in a country that long ago rejected antisemitism, particularly by the most politically enlightened and liberal? Is it because the police acted swiftly? Or is it something else?
The relative national silence on the attack speaks volumes. There is a double standard in the American ethos and it does not behoove American Jews to pretend otherwise. Many people, especially politicians, thought leaders and academics, claim they oppose the policies of the Israeli government and/or Zionism but are not antisemitic. That might be true. But many who make that claim are antisemitic. When those haters went looking for blood Tuesday night they did not shout, “Where are the Netanyahu supporters?" or "Where are the Zionists?” They screamed, “Where are the Jews?”
Of course, we should continue to stand up for others who suffer age-old hatreds, but we must also stand up for ourselves. How shall we do that? First and foremost, we stay true to our synagogue’s core mission, creating proud, knowledgeable, passionate Jews who celebrate and defend the values of Torah and the State of Israel. Second, we cherish America; a nation unlike any other in history for Jews to achieve and contribute to the greater good, doing all we can to assure it remains defined by brotherhood and sisterhood from sea to shining sea. Finally, we do not look the other way at antisemitism nor allow others to. Whether blatant or cloaked, right or left, here or elsewhere, we say its name. May our non-Jewish brothers and sisters say it too.
Rabbi Steve Leder