I commend our Jewish community for continuing a long tradition of support for the black community in America (“NJ Jewish community not sitting protests out,” June 11). It is a powerful reflection of classic Torah values, such as the beautiful words of Rabbi Akiva: “Beloved is man, for he was created in the image of God …”
At the same time, we have the right — no, the obligation — to call out and oppose anti-Semitism wherever and whenever it appears. And while most protestors over the last few weeks have acted peacefully and appropriately, there are dangerous elements within this movement that must be condemned.
Black Lives Matter (BLM) has long been bound up with anti-Israel activism and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), as stated explicitly in their 2016 platform. This attitude of hatred toward Israel and the Jewish people continues to this day, with many BLM activists seeking to blame George Floyd’s death on Israel and the IDF. Al Sharpton, another leader of the protest movement who delivered a eulogy at Floyd’s funeral, is an unapologetic anti-Semite with a bloody history of inciting riots against the Jewish community.
Most shocking of all were the targeted attacks on Jewish synagogues and businesses that took place during Shavuot in Los Angeles’ Fairfax district. Five synagogues were defaced, and numerous Jewish businesses were burned to the ground by rioters screaming curses about Jews. Shocking — or at least you would think so. Incredibly, this anti-Semitic assault on our fellow Jews has been almost entirely ignored by the media and Jewish organizations. Why? Because like BLM’s history of anti-Israel activism, the anti-Semitic riots in Los Angeles are deemed “inconvenient” and a “distraction” from the more pressing issue of racial justice. And so inconvenient facts are simply ignored or downplayed.
I recognize and understand that many members of our community are afraid to publicly criticize BLM; in today’s culture of fear, people are being publicly shamed and losing their jobs for doing so. But I believe that rabbis and Jewish organizations have an obligation to stand up and defend the Jewish community of America. The foundational principle of “Kol Yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” “All of Israel are responsible for one another,” demands that we make our voices heard. If we don’t, I fear that anti-Semitic attacks like those that took place in Los Angeles will become a regular part of American-Jewish life.
If you believe that my fears are overblown, and that we owe it to the black community to ignore these attacks and the anti-Semitism of BLM, please honestly answer this question: Would you feel the same way if rioters had defaced your synagogue? Would you feel the same way if rioters had burned down Jewish businesses in Livingston, Millburn, and Caldwell, while screaming anti-Semitic obscenities? I don’t think so.
Rabbi Elie Mischel
Synagogue of the Suburban Torah Center