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Tolerance at Hanukkah

Wed, 12/18/2019 - 11:57

Anti-Semitic and hate-related incidents of all kinds are on the increase in the United States. Here in East Hampton, several instances of anti-Semitic graffiti have appeared recently. Swastikas were reported to police in two locations in November and another was noticed on a driftwood log on an Amagansett bay beach at about the same time. While the symbols were nearly unintelligible scrawls and the sense was that they were the work of youths, they were nonetheless disturbing to many and drew the condemnation of the East Hampton Town Board.

As evidenced by the police-blotter stories in the South Fork newspapers, spray-painted swastikas have turned up with some regularity over the years here — at the Old Whalers Church in Sag Harbor, written in shaving cream on Newtown Lane in East Hampton on Halloween, and on a soccer team photograph at East Hampton High School, among other places.

Inevitably, youths will turn into adults, some of whom may carry their prejudices into adulthood. Some may no longer be interested in spreading harmful messages, but may stand by in silence as others do. Some will join far-right groups or marches, like the infamous white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Va., where a young counterprotester was killed.

Hate symbols like these are meant to offend. It is nearly certain that anyone drawing one understands at least some of what they stand for: hate, inhumanity, torture, genocide, and terror beyond description, as one East Hampton Star letter writer put it.

President Trump’s willing embrace of anti-Semitic ideas — as well as stridently racist beliefs — is among his administration’s worst aspects. The president was accompanied by two evangelical Christian pastors who have promoted outrageously incendiary ideas about Jews during a recent White House announcement about steps to take on anti-Semitism on college campuses. One has said that Hitler was sent by God to persecute Jews and drive them from Europe.

The executive order itself has been strongly criticized as implying that Jews are a single nationality or race, globalists led by the activist billionaire George Soros — an outrageous mischaracterization that has been assailed as supporting baseless conspiracy theories of a secret pan-national plot for world domination. In Mr. Trump’s strain of nationalism, Jews are welcome as long as they support him and his allies, but his statements suggest repeatedly that they are not quite American, that is, they are dangerous foreigners within. 

Hanukkah begins on Sunday at sundown. One way to stand together in opposition to hate, both local and from the dysfunctional presidency, is to attend menorah-lighting events in the coming days. By standing together, people of good conscience can send a message that intolerance will not predominate.

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