By Larry Gordon
The details are still sketchy, but that has not stopped the media, fueled by comments from the Jersey City mayor, from reporting that the kosher grocery in that community just a few miles from New York City was intentionally targeted. The perpetrators were killed by police in a shootout after they killed a police officer, two members of the Orthodox Jewish community and a worker at the supermarket.
As far as the New Jersey murders Tuesday afternoon are concerned, not all attacks of this nature are necessarily antisemitic, even when Jews are the victims. In a rush to beat their competitors, some of the otherwise usually reliable Jewish news websites rushed the names of six members of the Jersey City frum community online and reported that they had lost their lives. As it turns out four of those listed as being killed were very much alive and even uninjured.
In news revealed Wednesday, the shooters were identified as David Andersen, 47, and Francine Graham, 50. Andersen has been linked with the Black Hebrew Israelites movement. The Black Hebrew philosophy includes the belief that they are the “chosen people,” and not the Jews.
The question that needs to be pondered is whether the behavior of crazed, violent people — Black Hebrews or not — constitutes an antisemitic act. Does characterizing what happened as antisemitism add an air of legitimacy to out-of-control, unadulterated Jew hatred?
Are murders like these any different from those last year in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life Synagogue or at the Chabad shul in Poway, California?
Hate at Home?
There are numerous problems here that need to be dealt with — the sooner, the better. A few days ago, a 20-year-old man in Costco in Lawrence verbally assaulted a man wearing a yarmulke as they both emerged from the restroom. According to the victim, Avrumi Fridman, one of the comments the young man made in addition to “Nazis will kill you” was, “I’m going to come back and shoot this place up.”
He was arrested the next day but released a few hours later. Apparently, as it currently stands, you are not held in jail for threatening to murder Jews; actually doing so, as we know, is a different story.
If, as some insiders say, after the perpetrators shot a Jersey City police officer who stopped them, they drove more than a mile to the kosher grocery store, that is deeply problematic.
As we go to press, the investigation is intensifying, but that does not diminish the loss or lessen the great pain.