July 23, 2024
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The American Jewish Community Is Under Collective Attack; It’s Time to Fight Back

The time is now to show the world that the harassment, intimidation and physical attacks against our Jewish community cannot be tolerated or normalized.

By Noah Farkas/JPost.com

Let’s call what occurred in Los Angeles last Sunday, in the heart of the Jewish community, exactly what it was: an antisemitic attack. Those who targeted the most densely populated Jewish neighborhood on the West Coast came well-organized, in similar dress and armed. They had a coordinated plan to intimidate, harass, impede and ultimately assault Jews.

As a leader of Jewish Los Angeles, the second-largest Jewish population in the world outside of Israel, I have seen the abhorrent rise in antisemitism that is predictably heading toward catastrophe. Two years ago, when Kanye West, aka Ye, came after the Jewish community, I said, “Hate speech leads to hate crimes.” And here we are — again.

These anti-Israel protests that ostensibly seek to advocate for the Palestinian cause have devolved into antisemitism, violence and hate. This past year, we have witnessed the harassment of Jews on college campuses, shootings deliberately targeting members of the Orthodox community, and the murder of Paul Kessler.

Enough is enough. The time is now for our city and our country to decide whether they will take the security of the Jewish people seriously. The time is now to show the world that the harassment, intimidation and physical attacks against our Jewish community cannot be tolerated or normalized. Jews, like everyone else, have the right to live, pray and gather in peace. Let’s be clear: Holding all Jews accountable for the current war in Gaza is antisemitic.

I am grateful for the strong support of elected local, state and federal officials, as well as our law enforcement partners. However, we are acutely aware of the slowly growing distrust of government institutions meant to keep our community safe. Efforts to defund police and the unwillingness to apply prosecutorial pressure on those who flout the law have left many within the Jewish community feeling desperately vulnerable, disoriented and alone.

 

The Solution Is Collective Action

Over the last two years, the Jewish Federation Los Angeles has retooled our work to collaboratively fight antisemitism. This means coordinating with our Jewish partner organizations; working closely with law enforcement on security matters; teaching our civic, interfaith and educational partners about the challenges Jews are facing; and leading legislative efforts to address the current climate.

We have engaged university administrators to protect our Jewish students. Last year, we created the Jewish Security Alliance — in partnership with other Southern California federations, ADL Los Angeles and the Community Security Service — to strengthen our work with law enforcement. We partnered with the Jewish Public Affairs Committee of California to help Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office develop the Golden State Plan to Counter Antisemitism.

This past week, in partnership with the Jewish Community Foundation and The Tepper Foundation, we granted over $1.3 million to over 50 Jewish institutions to pay for additional post-Oct. 7 security needs. On Tuesday, we met with Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, LAPD Interim Chief Dominic Choi and other city leaders to address Sunday’s violence, resulting in these action steps.

Unfortunately, these efforts are not enough in an environment that is increasingly hostile to Jewish existence. We need even more collective action to ensure our safety.

We now call upon our city to enforce federal anti-masking laws, created to combat the Ku Klux Klan, against this generation’s hateful mobs, as Mayor Bass and others have promised. The KKK used hoods and masks to commit acts of intimidation and violence in anonymity. Anti-Jewish entities employ similar tactics today.

We also call upon the government to establish safe zones around houses of worship, schools and other cultural and religious centers to allow us to pray and assemble peacefully.

We call upon law enforcement to stop antisemitic violence at its inception and to proactively create a plan to ensure that protests do not devolve into harassment and violence.

Lastly, we call upon our allies — interfaith, civic and educational leaders — to strongly denounce antisemitism and support our efforts.

History has shown that what happens to the Jewish community soon happens to others. Join our call to establish safety and security for all Americans. Join us in holding our elected officials accountable for the promises they made earlier this week. Join us in using your voice to shut down antisemitism and Jew-hatred.

We can live in peace and prosperity only by working together and utilizing our collective power.

The writer, a rabbi, is president and CEO of the Jewish Federation Los Angeles.

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