Standing Up to Anti-Semitism
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein | February 23, 2017
Dear Friend of Israel
It happened again. Last Monday, at least ten Jewish Community Centers (JCC) around the U.S. received bomb threats. In 2017 alone, 54 Jewish community centers in 27 states and one Canadian province have received dozens of bomb threats. Thank God, all have been false alarms.
But make no mistake, these threats have not been without consequences. Staff and students have been evacuated. Police and bomb squads have been dispatched to the scenes. Valuable work time has been lost. Money has been spent to increase security. And the precious feeling of personal safety has been compromised for Jews throughout the U.S.
The day before this latest round of bomb threats, nearly 200 gravestones were damaged in a Jewish cemetery near St. Louis. The Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery has served this community for more than 100 years, pledging their services to all Jews, even those without money for a burial. Many of the historic headstones were pushed over, leading to costly repairs and an incalculable sense of violation for the staff and family members of those whose final resting places were defaced.
The time to speak out is now. While hundreds of individuals have been impacted by these immoral and illegal acts, there is a collective cost as well. I fear that we are at risk of becoming desensitized to these “small” acts of hate — that we will no longer be concerned about another round of bomb threats, and will start to dismiss them since “no one was harmed.” And I fear that we will fail to see these acts for what they are: anti-Semitism.
It is difficult to believe that this brand of hate not only still exists today, but is thriving and even increasing. I’ve spoken many times before about the deeply disturbing rise of anti-Semitism in Europe, where Jews and Jewish institutions feel that they are under siege. But anti-Semitism is on the rise not only in Europe, but in the U.S., a country founded on religious freedom and Judeo-Christian principles.
Brazen acts of anti-Semitism require a bold, unified response. We have seen such a response in the outpouring of support for these JCCs, and in the interfaith services calling for love to triumph over hate. We must be bold in responding to these “little” acts of hate before they become bigger and exact a higher toll. And all of us must be bold in unequivocally calling these acts by their proper name: anti-Semitism.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President