OpinionAntisemitism

Fear cannot dictate our actions

We must show the world that we are strong and united with a common message.

Washington, D.C. Credit: Pixabay.
Washington, D.C. Credit: Pixabay.
Rabbi Hayim Leiter. Credit: Courtesy.
Rav Hayim Leiter
Hayim Leiter is a rabbi, mohel, wedding officiant and member of a private beit din in Israel. He founded Magen HaBrit, an organization that protects the ceremony of brit milah and the children who undergo it. He lives in Efrat and can be reached on X.

Jews are being killed all over the world. I’m not just referring to the war in Gaza. While it’s true that the daily count of soldiers who have fallen in “Operation Swords of Iron” has reached 37, that tally does not include the 1,400 murdered and the 240 hostages still captive in the tunnels of the Gaza Strip. But those are not the Jews I’m referring to. I’m just as, if not more, concerned about the stories of Jews being murdered in Europe and the United States.

Samantha Woll, an outspoken Jewish leader in Detroit, was murdered on Oct. 21, a Shabbat morning, in her home and dragged out onto her front yard. After the news broke, I wrote an article detailing Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s culpability in raising the racial tensions in her district so high that this type of violence was inevitable. Subsequently, the U.S. House of Representatives has censured her for her rhetoric.

At the time, I received pushback about my article from the Jewish community. According to local police, it seemed that Woll was the victim of domestic violence, and there was no evidence of a hate crime.

Finally, on Tuesday, the Detroit police arrested a suspect. Still, the story quickly disappeared from the national headlines, and to my knowledge, the Jewish community is not pressing for this to be called a hate crime. Why is that?

This past Shabbat, two weeks to the day of Woll’s murder, a woman was stabbed in her home in France. The perpetrator knocked on the victim’s door incessantly, and when she answered, he stabbed her twice in the abdomen. Before leaving, he drew a swastika on her door. Thankfully, her wounds were not life-threatening. A spokesperson for the French police could not confirm whether or not they were treating this as an antisemitic hate crime. At the time of this writing, there have been no demands from the Jewish community of France to label this a hate crime, even though it’s even clearer than Woll’s murder. Once again, why is that?

On Sunday, during concurrent pro-Palestinian, pro-Israel rallies in the Los Angeles area, a 59-year-old Jewish man was attacked by a pro-Palestinian protester. Allegedly, an altercation broke out between two of the protesters from opposing sides, and according to witness testimony, the pro-Palestinian protester struck the Jewish man in the head with his megaphone, and the victim died the next day from his injuries. Meaning, he was killed.

Even worse than the story itself is The Forward’s coverage of the incident. In essence, they made the story out to be an accident, describing it this way: “Paul Kessler, 69, died Monday from an injury sustained when he hit his head on the ground during a confrontation with a protester at a Sunday demonstration.” Take note of all of the facts left out of this description. There’s not only no mention of being struck with a megaphone; from the paper’s outline of the case, he very well may have been arguing with a pro-Israel protester. In a subsequent editorial, Kessler’s murder was described as “the avoidable tragedy of his passing.” How can a Jewish newspaper with the reputation of The Forward describe the murder of a Jew in such a way?

Do you see a pattern here?

Beyond the obvious pattern of a spike in antisemitic crime worldwide, which has been horribly disconcerting, the silence from the Jewish community is deafening. Imagine for a moment that even one of these incidents, God forbid, involved a white man killing a black man. What do you think the response would have been? I realize that this is an uncomfortable line of reasoning, but it must be voiced.

It’s not that hard to think back to the summer of 2020 and the George Floyd riots. These protests, which turned horribly violent, caused millions of dollars in damage throughout many American cities. And all of this was cheered on by the left-wing media and the Democratic Party. Why is there no outrage at these Jewish deaths, both inside and outside the Jewish community? Where are the people of good conscience?

My rabbinic colleagues of the world, the time to make our voices heard is long overdue. The Jewish community is in desperate need of leadership right now. We all need to shout from the rooftops that we are not afraid, and we demand justice in all of these cases. From where I sit, there are Hamas rockets being fired at us multiple times a day, yet I feel safer here. I feel safer because I know the Israeli defense force is hunting down the culprits of the massacre of Oct. 7 and making sure that it never happens again. But the rest of the Jewish world doesn’t have a de facto army protecting you. And believe me, you are at war right now. No one is going to fight for you, especially if you won’t stand up for yourself.

To the greater American Jewish community, the battle begins on Tuesday, Nov. 14 in Washington, D.C. The organizers are calling for something akin to a Million Man March. It needs to be at least that. Fear cannot dictate our actions. We must show the world that we are strong and united with a common message. Week upon week, the other side has gathered in the thousands to show their support of Hamas. Make no mistake: Those rallies were in support of slaughtering Jews. Our message must be as loud and as clear as possible: We are against Hamas and all the evil it manifests, and we will not tolerate any group or individual that makes antisemitism its goal.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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