In an editorial published in 2018, the Journal called for the creation of a task force on antisemitism. In 2019, the Journal renewed the call, and now, in the summer of 2022, we insist that a task force be created.
Greater Boston Jewry continues to face a disturbing wave of antisemitism unlike anything we’ve seen in this part of New England in decades. In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 47 percent increase in antisemitic incidents in the state over 2020 – an historic high in the state. And the incidents show no sign of slowing down. Last weekend, dozens of pamphlets claiming that Jews were the main force behind the Covid pandemic and behind the media were placed on lawns in West Peabody. In schools – particularly public elementary schools – swastikas are being found at an alarming rate in suburban communities like Marblehead, Danvers and Newton.
And last year brought a torrent of terrifying incidents – from Duxbury’s football team using a play in a game called “Auschwitz,” to a Lowell School Committee member calling a former city employee who is Jewish an antisemitic slur on live TV. Last summer, Rabbi Shlomo Noginsky was attacked in broad daylight in Brighton and brutally stabbed eight times before his assailant was arrested. In Marblehead, it took 18 months before the town’s police chief learned that an officer on his force had carved a swastika into another officer’s car. Then, after learning about the incident, it took the town nearly another year to investigate the incident.
Some of these incidents made national news, but the swastikas and other hate language that occurred regularly in schools, neighborhoods and on public property – along with Holocaust denial – continued. Police routinely follow up on these incidents, but the result has been disconcertingly predictable. Even with the state’s Hate Crimes Law, when it comes to antisemitism, few are ever arrested and charged with a hate crime.
In recent years, Jewish institutions have recognized that times have changed in America and that security systems need to be in place. In previous decades it would have been unheard of to station a police officer at a temple or Jewish organization for protection. Now it’s standard procedure.
The Jewish community would be wise to create its own task force on antisemitism.
We cannot rely on one single method or strategy to eradicate antisemitism, racism and hatred. Historically, a rise in intolerance, intimidation, and blame has led to violence. It is time to be proactive and use all the resources we have in our state to combat this growing societal problem.