A Jewish woman was murdered in California today, simply for being a Jew celebrating Passover. I’m a Jewish woman celebrating Passover in California today too — so I raise my voice for her and for every soul who has been gunned down in a hate crime, lost their life for daring to live their truth or faced deadly anti-Semitism, white supremacy, discrimination or bigotry of any kind. May their memory be a blessing.
A 19-year-old American man walked into a synagogue today, shouting hateful slurs and opened fired with an assault rifle, killing her and wounding a child and two more Jews who were celebrating the end of one our holiest festivals. During Passover, the holiday which commemorates liberation and freedom from unbearable horrors in one of the greatest sequences of miracles ever experienced. During Shabbat, our sacred day of rest. During Yizkor, when we honor the memories of relatives and loved ones lost. During the week of Yom Ha’Shoah, when we remember the victims of the Holocaust.
Six months to the day after the deadliest massacre of Jews in America, when eleven individuals were murdered in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, it has now happened again. Thoughts and prayers do nothing. Empty promises to combat anti-Semitism are meaningless. Cries to stop hate fall on deaf ears. Attempts to ban assault rifles go nowhere.
This anti-semitic attack is far from an isolated incident, amid a climate of rising hate crimes in the United States, which spiked 17% in a year, per an FBI report across 3,000 police agencies that detailed the increase in attacks against religious and racial minorities. Those targeting Jews jumped 57% last year to 1,986 incidents, the largest uptick in any single year according to the Anti-Defamation League.
Anti-semitism is real. Anti-semitism kills. Anti-semitism threatens Jews every single day. Anti-semitism is seen all across the political spectrum — and we do not and should not have to prove it, not to those on the left, not to those on the right. On the left, it often manifests as poorly-masked threats to or direct attacks on the Jewish right to self-determination, while on the right, we see repeated extremist claims that Jews are attempting to destroy the white race through a variety of nefarious mechanisms and secretive channels, like that which the San Diego shooter posted to radical online forum 8chan earlier today, received with widespread praise and cheers of infamy.
Toxic rhetoric is pervasive. Just yesterday, President Trump doubled down on his indefensible statement that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville that left one counter-protestor dead and featured neo-Nazis and white supremacists marching openly in the streets with Ku Klax Klan-like torches shouting “Jews will not replace us” and Nazi slogan “Blood and soil.”
Like politicians, the media perpetuates anti-Semitism, seemingly without second thought or remorse. Just yesterday, The New York Times ran a blatantly anti-Semitic cartoon that used unmistakable and unforgivable tropes – the face of the Prime Minister of the Jewish State on a dog, a Star of David on his collar, with a leash being held by the President of the United States (with an offensively placed yarmulke), insinuating that the United States is being “blindly” led by Jews and/or the Jewish state. While an Editors’ Note stated the image was “offensive” and an “error of judgment,” there was zero apology, explanation of how it happened or what concrete changes have been implemented to ensure nothing like this ever happens again, targeting Jews or any other group.
Words, tweets, caricatures, demonstrations and chatrooms have consequences, have fallout, have victims. We must address the insidious hate that plagues not only our country, not only Jews, but the world over and peoples of all faiths — Muslims in New Zealand, Christians in Sri Lanka, Jews in California and that is only but a few of the horrific recent attacks.
I do not believe that government, law enforcement, media companies or digital platforms are taking adequate action to protect me, to protect Jews, to protect “the other" in America from being a target of violence, terror, racism, hatred, anti-Semitism, white supremacy, all of it. What more can I say? What more must we do? How must more loudly must we scream out, cry out, call it out?
As anti-Semitism continues to rear its ugly head as an eternally shape-shifting virus, ongoing silence, dismissal, apathy and inaction on this age-old evil are inexcusable — and not only increasingly hurtful and detrimental to the moral fabric of this country, but acutely deadly. While persecuted, scared, exposed and targeted, we will not back down, cower in fear, give in to hatred or succumb at attempts to divide us; we will stay strong, united, brave and proud, no matter how hard it may be in the current climate.
Am Yisrael Chai. We, the Jewish people, still live — despite thousands of years of persecution, despite being less than .1% of the global population, despite 6 million Jews being systematically killed in an unparalleled genocide only decades ago, despite expulsions from innumerable nations throughout history and in the modern day, despite countless attempts to wipe us off the face of the earth, despite ongoing and rising physical, political, religious, national and digital hatred from all sides over time. Our mere survival is a miracle, our successes, triumphs and ability to thrive beyond the wildest imagination of our ancestors.
I am grateful to be alive, ever proud to be a Jew, humbled by our rich history, honored to carry on our traditions, deeply committed to our future, but now even more terrified to be a Jewish woman celebrating Passover in California today, to be a Jewish woman in America in this day and age.