By Max Breene
This year, threats against Jewish Community Centers have soared, tombstones in Jewish cemeteries have been toppled, and Jews across America are now asking the question: are we safe?
A March 2 CNN article reports that there have been over 100 bomb threats against Jewish schools and community centers in the U.S. and Canada this year. Over the same span of time, Jewish cemeteries were vandalized in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and New York, prompting the president and vice president of the U.S. to speak out against these heinous crimes.
These types of hate crimes have become all too familiar for the Jewish community throughout its history. At the height of World War II in Eastern Europe, Jews were the targets of persecution, hate crimes, and most infamously, the Holocaust. In some parts of Europe today, anti-Semitism continues to run deep. Even here in America, Jews are still targeted more than any other religious group. In 2014, almost 57 percent of reported victims of anti-religious hate crimes were Jewish, according to Forward.com.
These numbers are staggering, and given the recent uptick in threats against Jewish community centers and cemetery vandalism, it isn’t unreasonable to be scared. But, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt so famously said at his first inaugural address, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” By this, I mean that we as one Jewish community should not be frightened by these threats.
Terrorists seek to intimidate their victims by instilling fear in people. If we succumb to fear, we are doing exactly what the terrorists want. They feed off of fear; it only makes them grow stronger and bolder.
Terrorists are like bullies. If we stand up to them as one community, one nation, and one people, they will become nothing. Anti-Semites have become emboldened in recent months by an election outcome which they believe has given them a voice on the grandest of stages. These anti-Semites feel as though no one will stand up to them now. Therefore, they think they can get away with hate crimes.
We cannot show fear in the face of adversity. We, as one Jewish people, must stand up to these bullies and say, “We are stronger than ever, and your attempts to terrorize us through threats will never work. You have no power over us.” If we can show that we are not frightened by their attempts to attack our religion, the terrorists will lose any power that they currently think they have.
I am not saying that we should practice ignorance. Although, luckily, nothing real has come of these threats, we must remember they are still serious, and we should stay on our toes and be prepared for more to come. During these turbulent times, Jews must stand together in the face of imminent threats. We must show prudence in understanding that there is a real threat against our culture. Although on its face, an act of vandalism or a bomb threat against a particular Jewish institution looks like an isolated incident, it is part of a bigger problem. Systematic anti-Semitism still exists in America, and acts of terrorism like the ones which have been committed recently show that hatred is still directed toward the Jewish religion. However, the one thing we mustn’t show is fear. They can knock over the tombstones of our loved ones, and they can try to threaten us in the very places where we feel safest, such as schools and community centers.
It is truly a frightening epidemic of anti-Semitism that has swept the nation. But as a nation-wide Jewish community, we have persevered through hatred and bigotry before, and we must now stand up to these criminals and show them they cannot intimidate us.
Max Breene is a freshman journalism and government and politics double major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.