Sunday, July 05, 2020

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There has been an alarming increase in anti-Semitism around the world and in America, from both the left and the right. The war on Jews and Israel has now reached the Highland Park-Edison area, which was deliberately targeted because of its large Jewish population. The opening attack was a reading in its library of an outrageous pro-Palestinian book to toddlers, by an openly BDS advocate. The following week there was a defeat of an anti-BDS resolution by the HP Boro Council. Both events were covered in the JLNJ by excellent front-page articles by Deborah Melman (“Highland Park Protests ‘P Is for Palestine,’” October 23, 2019 and “BDS/Anti-Semitism Wins in Highland Park” October 31, 2019).

The events today bring to mind the classical anti-Semitism witnessed in the world for the last 2,000 years. These included the Crusades, when thousands of Jews were slaughtered simply because they were Jews. In Spain and Portugal during the Inquisition, many thousands of Jews were sadistically tortured and burned at the stake. In Russia widespread pogroms killed and drove from their homes many thousands, maybe millions, of Jews. In the Holocaust, of course, the Nazis slaughtered 6 million Jewish men, women and children. In the 20th century, the Muslims in the Mideast and Africa expelled over 800,000 Jews from their lands, so that today the entire region, except for tiny Israel, is completely “Juden-frei.” And they are constantly trying to destroy Israel also. In all these catastrophes, there were never any distinctions as to kinds of Jews—religious, secular, elite, peasant, assimilated or enlightened. There was only one common denominator, Jew. When the Jew haters come after us, all Jews are caught up in their web, and none are spared, even the most “worldly.”

Although the situation today has not yet reached the violent stages of the past, our adversaries, as part of a concerted world-wide anti-Israel, anti-Semitic movement, are organized and well funded by outside organizations. Most of our area’s Jews see the dangers looming on the horizon, but their avenues of protest are not yet fully crystalized. The major resistance to date has come from a determined group of activists.

The major leadership groups in our area are the rabbis and Federation. The rabbis represent various denominations in our area, and some, but too few, are openly supporting the activists. Most have not spoken publicly. Federation, which is the umbrella organization representing all Jews in our area, is the major leadership organization we have. However, here also, instead of being the rallying point for resisting outside pressure, it too has chosen to remain publicly quiet throughout this very critical period.

And that is the problem for the majority of Jews in our area. It is this current lack of a central authority within which to give voice to their fears, rather than an underlying lack of anxiety, that is hampering the efforts to face what is certain to be further attacks on our way of life, probably starting with the school system, as has happened in other communities.

In the words of Edmund Burke: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.”

Max Wisotsky
Highland Park