By Ron Jager
Not a day goes by without Jews being shot in their synagogues, stabbed, bludgeoned, pushed to the ground, spat on, and cursed at. Graffiti on the walls of Jewish institutions; graffiti on the walls of synagogues; victims killed, maimed for life, traumatized, hospitalized, needing extended rehabilitation; and the list goes on and on. Pittsburgh, Ohio, California, Brooklyn, Great Neck, and more. Older chassidic Jews, young Orthodox Jews, Conservative Jews, Reform Jews, non-affiliated Jews — they are all targeted irrespective of their level of observance, irrespective of whether they look or act Jewish. They are preyed upon only because they are Jews. The daily incidents now pass without much notice — a steady and acceptable level of violence and hate targeting Jewish people anywhere and everywhere is seemingly quietly condoned and accepted as a daily fact of American life.
Where are the powerful Jewish American organizations that are always at the forefront of helping others? We Jews are always there to be the first to extend a helping hand — Women’s March, Me Too, Black Lives Matter, gays, Latinos, southern border, and the list goes on and on. Donate funds, arrange media attention, pull strings with politicians, enlist leading newspapers, and again the list goes on and on.
Yet when it comes to defending American Jews against the spiraling epidemic of physically violent antisemitic attacks against Jews, there is a deafening silence. Jewish organizations that were built for the precise purpose of navigating times like these are to a large extent inadequate, unresponsive, and restrained, as if they do not want to rock the boat, careful not to demand accountability from those that are entrusted to protect us. Too many of these Jewish organizations are operating with a myopic moral compass that guides their largely pathetic indifference. They deny the urgency of the clear and present danger that threatens the well being of American Jews.
Sadly, we, the Jewish people, are complicit in our own victimhood, making excuses for and throwing in our lot with the Democratic half of the political system who proudly parade Muslim congresswomen espousing antisemitic poison disguised as progressivism. American Jewry proudly stands on the same stage with Tlaib and Omar, providing them support and encouragement as they demonize and slander the State of Israel. American Jews have subcontracted their expectation of personal and communal safety to anti-Semitic Democratic politicians who cynically and casually reap political benefits despite their incessant and calculated use of antisemitic tropes since being elected. Even New York’s Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio promised this past June to immediately open an office devoted to combating antisemitism; three months later and uncounted anti-Jewish hate crimes later, nothing has really happened other than a couple of tweets and press releases. As far as I can assess, tweets have yet to stop a single attack.
American Jewry, being so closely associated with the Democratic Party, seems to suffer from perpetual numbness. It seems as if almost no one in the Democratic Party will stand up for American Jews despite the obligatory calls for tolerance. The lack of any real action is clearly missing and not a part of the public discourse concerning the epidemic of anti-Semitic attacks throughout America. It seems that it is much easier to be vocally outraged over accusations of disloyalty rather than to demand the Democratic Party take a clear stand against antisemitic politicians among their ranks and do something about it. It seems as if American Jewry and the communal organizations are complicit in their own humiliations, making excuses and exonerating the very political forces that are empowering violent anti-Semitic attacks by members of the Muslim community and black Americans often bombarded and inundated by social media references to statements and actions by Democratic politicians such as Tlaib and Omar.
Many will claim that this situation is not unique and that throughout Jewish history there have always been members of the tribe who undermined the survival of the Jewish people. American Jewry is undergoing a serious crisis despite the pervasive denial everywhere. Large Jewish communities that were fully assimilated pillars in their respective countries throughout Europe are now no more than memories and memorials. The role of a Jewish minority vocally and visibly at the forefront, occupying a disproportionate role in an increasingly toxic political atmosphere, always supporting the party that humiliates American Jewry the most, is weakening the very Jews they claim to represent. Their inept defense of and abdication of personal safety of American Jews is a foregone conclusion. Slowly but surely, this support and identification with the Democratic Party has transformed American Jews to be seen as isolated and defenseless in the eyes of antisemites, many living their lives on the threshold of crossing the line and physically attacking random American Jews.
Denial can be understood to be a mechanism in which confrontation with a personal problem or with reality is avoided by denying the existence of the problem or reality. American Jewry is at the crossroads and must reassess who they can count on to ensure the continuation of Jewish communal life in America. Associating with true political allies rather than with those politicians that take American Jewish support for granted should be the first step in a long process of reevaluating of how American Jewry deals with the denial that is blinding their ability to defend themselves.
Ron Jager is a 25-year veteran of the Israel Defense Forces, where he served as a field mental-health officer and as commander of the central psychiatric military clinic for reserve soldiers at Tel-Hashomer. Since retiring from active duty, he has been implementing psychological trauma and psychological education programs to communities in Israel. Ron served as a strategic adviser to the chief foreign envoy of Judea and Samaria. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.