The life we’ve come to take for granted here is really only a mirage
The war between Hamas and Israel was raging. Missiles were falling all over Eretz Yisrael. For the first time in recent memory, air raid sirens sounded in Yerushalayim itself. If that wasn’t enough of a wake-up call, emboldened pro-Palestinian mobs shattered the fragile domestic coexistence in the United States, went well past making their voices heard at rallies, and escalated their outrage by physically assaulting identifiable Jews across the country.
From kosher restaurants in Los Angeles to the streets of South Florida, the site of flag waving pro-Palestinian caravans confronting Jews mirrored the reports of Yidden being assaulted on the streets of Brooklyn and in Manhattan’s diamond district. Marauding groups screaming, cursing, and threatening Jews from Europe to the United States put fear into the hearts of Jews everywhere.
This past year, it felt very much like we were in galus. The visual of enraged kaffiyeh-clad thugs attacking defenseless Jews simply because they are Jews, with the police nowhere to be found, is embedded in my memory. It created a new fear, one that younger generations really never felt personally but grew up hearing so much about. “Is it going to become impossible for the lone Jew to walk on the streets?” “Are our children safe walking home from yeshivah or shul?” The concerns were palpable.
We grew up hearing about the pogroms of Europe, the atrocities of pre-war Nazi Germany in the late 1930’s culminating with Kristallnacht, and then of course, the Holocaust itself. I’ve always heard the whispered question, “Could it happen here?” Frighteningly, that question is no longer whispered and has been replaced with, “Is it happening here?”
We sadly learned that if law enforcement stands down and ignores rampaging mobs or the threats of a lone wolf anti-Semite, the life we’ve come to take for granted here is really only a mirage. Where does that leave the always vulnerable Jewish community — identifiable and otherwise?
My lesson from this past year is that as comfortable as we thought we were in America, as adjusted and accepted as we may feel in the Diaspora, and as proud as we are to live Torah lives virtually anywhere on earth — we also have to be cognizant of the fact that only with Hashem’s Divine protection are we truly safe.
We must not sugar-coat the reality. We were forced to plead with and even demand of our elected officials, specifically from Mayor de Blasio and from the NYPD, to really step forward and do what’s necessary to protect us. In New York City, the NYPD certainly responded and we are deeply grateful for their protection. But a harsh reality was confirmed; it took an overwhelming police presence and resources to put a temporary stop to the open anti-Semitic attacks on the streets of New York City in 5781. No longer can we delude ourselves that the scourge of anti-Semitism has been solved.
Not a pretty image to remember at all.
Chaskel Bennett is the co-founder of the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 876)
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