Jews are no strangers to anti-Semitism. While history has shown us that Jew-hatred will take the occasional holiday, it has never taken a permanent vacation.
At the end of 2018, the most murderous attack on Jews ever to occur in North America took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Eleven Jews peacefully at prayer were gunned down by a maniacal white supremacist.
The world was shocked. Jews were horrified. But shocked? Not so much. In the very dark places of our souls, we expect Jews to be attacked. We hope it doesn’t happen, but sadly, we are not surprised when it does.
The Jewish community did, however, receive an outpouring of support from all sectors of American society.
“These senseless acts of violence are not who we are as Americans,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
“Gun violence anywhere is devastating, but to attack people in their place of worship is deeply horrific,” claimed Pennsylvania Sen. Jay Costa.
Bishop Edward Malesic of Greensburg, Pa., intoned that, “People of faith should be able to worship God in peace and security. Our sacred places should be free of all violence. May we find a way to respect the lives of one another without resorting to such brutality.”
And of course, there was U.S. President Donald Trump’s attempt to bring comfort to the bereaved when he noted that, “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world. And something has to be done.”
Indeed, something has to be done. As the president of the United States, one would have thought that after this horrendous shooting, he would have shown more care with the words he chooses when speaking about white nationalism, racism, neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism. But that is not his way.
Never mind that following a neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville, N.C., in 2107, Trump intoned the righteousness of both the Nazis and the counter demonstrators, and forget that during the 2016 campaign he told a group of Jewish Republicans, “You’re not going to support me because I don’t want your money.”
As I wrote in the Toronto Star last month, “Trump jumped the anti-Semitic shark (when) in an address to the Israel American Council on Dec. 8, Trump invoked the longstanding allegation of Jewish dual loyalty by telling the gathering that ‘They don’t love Israel enough.’
“As if that were not bad enough, he then played the anti-Semitic canard of Jews and their money, insisting that ‘a lot of you are in the real estate business because I know you very well. You’re brutal killers, not nice people at all.’ He then went on to explain how they must vote for him to protect their assets.”
Unlike Barbara Kay, who derided me in last week’s CJN for my criticism of Trump, I believe that when the president of the United States publicly voices such ugly rhetoric, he plants seeds in the minds of those who are already prone to Jew-hatred. As a result, such haters feel they are given permission to move from expressions of anti-Semitism to outright violence.
And so, as 2019 came to a close, American Jews had another abrupt wake-up call. On Dec. 12, two violent anti-Semites invaded a kosher supermarket in New Jersey and murdered three Jews and a police officer.
And on the last night of Hanukkah, a violent Jew-hating marauder forced his way into the home of a local rabbi, where he too tried to murder Jews with a machete. Three were wounded, one seriously. Anti-Semitic literature was seized from his car and his home.
Where in the past those with hateful feelings towards Jews might spray paint a synagogue or use social media to express their demonic thoughts, today, given that, in their minds, the president of the United States shares their views, they may feel that more drastic measures can be taken.
Trump certainly did not plant a gun or machete in the hands of the perpetrators, but he may very well have added fuel to the anti-Semitic fire.