In recent weeks, there has been a rash of attacks on Jews in New York, mostly in the Hasidic communities where these men and women dress in ways that identify themselves to their community, in keeping with their religious traditions. These attacks coincided with the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
Any singular attack like this should be condemned in the strongest terms and the attackers punished to the fullest extent of the law. But 13 attacks, as of this writing, in just a couple weeks, signals a much deeper problem.
For the record, the response by local officials in the area has been swift and condemning. They have all said all the right things.
Someone is targeting Jews simply because they are Jewish. Simply for their faith and their beliefs. Until the perpetrators are caught, I won’t speculate whether they are white supremacists, Nazis or some other hate group.
What I will say is that they hate for no reason other than to hate. Most people who fall into that group do it so they can blame their own inadequacies, their own failings, on someone else rather than taking responsibility for their own actions.
One of the most basic, and most important, rules/guidelines/commandments of Christianity (and frankly, every other faith I know of) is to love your neighbor as yourself.
Cheating, lying, hurting, stealing? Would you do that to yourself? Then don’t do it to anyone else. Pretty simple, right? It’s also known as the “Golden Rule.”
A second level to that should be don’t stand idly by and watch it happen. Don’t say “Well, it’s not my people/group/community.” You could be next.
I literally woke up at 4:30 in the morning and couldn’t get back to sleep with these things on my mind. I got up and wrote the first draft of what you read above — that’s the curse of being a writer.
As I hit “Save,” I opened Facebook for a moment and stumbled upon an eloquent statement by Rabbi Victor Urecki about the subject, making what I wrote pale in comparison. He suggested three ways to help:
1. Attend a service: When a religious group is targeted, nothing says solidarity more than asking to attend a service. In these tense times, one should always call ahead, but whenever people of different faiths join worshippers at a local synagogue, a temple, a masjid, a church, there is comfort and inspiration. A reminder that we are stronger together.
2. Be a friend when a marginalized group is attacked. Make an effort to reach out to a Jewish, Muslim, or LGBTQ friend and try to learn more about who we are, what we believe, how we live and what we are going through when an attack happens. You don’t have one? Great. See number one. Expand your circle of friends. Today.
3. Be our door: When a thoughtless, ugly comment is expressed, don’t ignore. Do. Not. Argue. Invite. Put the person on the spot: “You seem to have some strong views about _____. I don’t share your views because that has not been my experience with _____. Want to meet my friend who is ______?” Challenge their ignorance by letting us do the educating.
Yes, I know these attacks are in New York, but we have a Jewish community here, as well as several other minority groups. They should know that we have their back and nothing like that is going to happen to them.