On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, a Jewish friend stopped his car at a red light on the upper West Side of Manhattan. A man in the next lane rolled down his window, pointed his finger, and shouted, I hold you people responsible for this. Antisemitism in America is old as the nation and has too many flashpoints: Leo Frank lynching (1915), Hebrew Benevolent Congregation bombing (1958), Temple Beth Israel bombing (1960), Alan Berg murder (1984), Crown Heights Riot (1986), Jewish Community Center shooting (1999), Holocaust Museum shooting (2009), to name a few. The Anti-Defamation League observed:
During the Civil War, for example, anti-Jewish intolerance increased dramatically on both sides, with both the Union and Confederacy making baseless accusations that Jews aided the opposing side.
During the 2017 Charlottesville demonstration, right wing marchers chanted Jews will not replace us. In 2018, a gunman shouted, All Jews must die! while killing 11 and wounding 6 people at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue. In 2019, antisemitic violence increased in the United States by 12%. Assaults went up 56%. The trend continued in 2020. Then came the spike of antisemitic violence in May, 2021. That surge is sometimes attributed to pro-Palestinian politics but the connection isn’t clear. Vox reports:
The connection between anti-Semitism and pro-Palestinian sentiment in Hersh and Royden’s data is tenuous at best. Among those who said Jews had too much power in America, only a small percentage pointed to Israel-Palestine as the area where they wield this malign influence — suggesting . . . “that support for these statements is not closely connected to the Israel/Palestine conflict.”
Fox News scorns Vox for doubting that antisemitism is caused by support for Palestinian rights, but previous Israel-Palestinian conflicts have not been accompanied by upticks in antisemitic violence here. We can’t explain what happened in May, but the current spike occurs in the context of a general surge in homicides, domestic violence, drug overdoses, and hate crimes. It cannot be simplistically reduced to differences over international relations. One cannot assume the political position of any American from their ethnicity or religion. Many Jews, both here and in Israel, seek a just peace and are by no means perpetrators of violence against Palestinians. Jewish Voice For Peace, Parents Circle—Family Forum, and Coalition of Women for Peace are a few examples. But even if someone holds views we find abhorrent, the Christian response is not resorting to base violence.
The Episcopal Peace Fellowship stands resolutely against violence, especially hate crimes which are on the rise, not only against Jews, but against many targets of prejudice – Blacks, AAPI, Latinx, Muslims, Sikhs, Transgender, and others. Whatever our convictions about international conflicts, we believe in mutual respect and the open-hearted quest for authentic understanding. In our Baptismal Covenant, we have vowed to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. There is no room in that way of life for threats, intimidation, or acts of violence. We recommit ourselves to working for justice and peace through non-violent means.