The New Anti-Semitism

By Josh Franklin

The Jewish community is no stranger to being the victim of violence. Many Jewish family histories — mine included — carry a tale of a pogrom, an act of violence orchestrated against the Jewish community. In many cases throughout Russia and Eastern Europe, the government would take part in planning these acts of violence. My great-grandfather fled to the United States after a group of Cossacks raided his Lithuanian village toward the turn of the 20th century. 

This time period was a particularly bloody era for Jews in Russia. In the wake of a blood libel against the Jews in 1903, violence erupted in Kishinev, Russia, as the crowds chanted “Kill the Jews” and wreaked havoc on the Jewish community. This pervasive hatred of Jews throughout Europe foreshadowed the Holocaust, as the violence escalated to genocide during World War II. 

The recent attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh may seem like a resurgence of a historical hatred and violence against the Jewish people. Eleven Jews killed and six injured by a man who walked into the Squirrel Hill neighborhood sanctuary armed with an assault rifle along with several handguns and fueled by a hatred of Jews. Indeed, it was the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history.

Yet I do not believe that this lone wolf signifies a return to the horrific massacres of the past. The uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. reported by the Anti-Defamation League is certainly nothing to scoff at. But, by and large, anti-Semitism within American culture is marginal, not normative. When a tragedy like that in Pittsburgh occurs, we don’t see an increase in hatred, rather we witness the opposite. In the wake of the shooting, the Jewish community has welcomed an outpouring of support. 

The Jewish Center of the Hamptons received numerous phone calls, emails, and messages of consolation and love over the last few days. Clergy from every house of worship called to express sympathy. One East Hampton resident wrote to simply say that “while we are not Jewish, we wanted to let you know that we stand by you and will be a neighbor anytime you need.” Village Mayor Paul Rickenbach was quick to be in touch and publicly declare that “our community will not tolerate such deplorable acts, and we stand together to support acceptance and freedom of religion.” 

On an everyday basis, and especially in the wake of this tragedy, the Hamptons community has exuded a solidarity of love and togetherness. You can witness the same response throughout the country. 

In this spirit, we hope that you will join in a community vigil at the Jewish Center of the Hamptons Thursday night at 7. Together we will not just mourn the loss of those killed and pray for healing for all those injured, but we will comfort one another and demonstrate that the love within a community will never fail to overpower hatred.

Daniel Stein, 71
Joyce Feinberg, 75
Richard Gottfried, 65
Rose Mallinger, 97
Jerry Rabinowitz, 66
Cecil Rosenthal, 59
David Rosenthal, 54
Bernice Simon, 84 
Sylvan Simon, 86
Melvin Wax, 88
Irving Younger, 69

Josh Franklin serves as the rabbi of the Jewish Center of the Hamptons in East Hampton.