With over 70 percent of non-Orthodox Jews intermarrying in America, there’s been a sense that Jews were welcome in the mainstream – they could live where they wanted, enter professions and corporations that previously excluded them, and embrace an identity that did not solely include Judaism.
But in the past three years, it’s been hard for most assimilated Jews to ignore the rise in anti-Semitism. Last Saturday, a man burst into a rabbi’s house during a menorah lighting in upstate New York, and nearly killed two Jews with a machete. That followed a spate of attacks on religious Jews in New York last month, and murders of religious Jews in Jersey City, and Poway, Calif. this year. In addition, 11 Jews were murdered while praying in a Pittsburgh temple last year.
Across America, it seems that not a day goes by when Jews are not targeted because of their religion. In Greater Boston and across Massachusetts – one of the most liberal and tolerant states in the country – Jews have faced verbal and physical assaults, arsons, Holocaust denial, a cemetery desecration, and an epidemic of anti-Semitic graffiti at public schools in the last year.
The Jewish community can no longer afford to react to these incidents with just prayers and vigils after these events occur. It needs to be proactive: Jewish institutions need modern security systems, and we need to prioritize this funding in order to protect our own people. Just as importantly, we need to be aware of the communication between leading Jewish organizations that represent the Jewish public and elected leaders and law enforcement. Top officials at Jewish charities are appointed and not elected. Still, if they are to be called leaders, the Jewish public – which funds these organizations – deserves full transparency and regular briefings on how they are representing the Jewish public on this matter.
Absent a central voice that updates the Jewish community on issues of anti-Semitism, and communication with law enforcement and elected officials, Jews are powerless to act together with one voice. We cannot move forward together without being unified. Our civil liberties and democratic future rests in our hands.