I’m seeing all these articles online about how far we’ve come in the last decade – all sorts of technological advances: ride sharing apps, tablets, smart homes, virtual assistants. We’ve made medical advances too, in cell therapy, gene therapy, cancer immunotherapy.
As a society, we have made advances in how we treat people. We are more conscientious of everything these days. Not only of bullying (we didn’t have a special name for that when I was growing up – some kids were just mean), mental health awareness, special needs awareness. We have made huge leaps forward in protecting women from abuse, children from abuse. We believe that discrimination of any kind is unjust and has no place in civilized society. We are even conscientious about our food – we want it to be clean. We want to know where and how our vegetables were sourced.
There is more access to information than ever before. In just this decade alone, nearly 4 BILLION more smart phones were put into use than there were in 2010.
This was a decade of unprecedented progress, accountability, and information in the world. And yet, and yet, as I scroll through my social media feeds, I see images and video clips of Jews being beaten, Jews running for their lives, Jews being surrounded by ruthless attackers. These scenes play out like how I imagine pogroms must have looked hundreds of years ago in shtetl times, yet this is happening as we enter 2020. These attacks are not occurring in some remote village that still has no smart phones. No, they are happening in one of the largest and most advanced cities in the world.
And the question is “How is that possible? How is it possible that the world advances in every way but its hatred of Jews?”
For the record – I have no idea how many Asian pedophiles there in the New York area are or how many Hispanics defrauded the government in the last few years. Other than the Catholic Church abuse story, I rarely see ethnic or religious groups cited when a scandal is reported on. I just see individuals. Yet somehow when Orthodox Jews do bad things, they are mentioned as part of their larger community. The shortcomings of some (and we must vigorously call them out whenever they occur), some how end up staining an entire community.
And the thing is, anti-semites pay attention. When Jersey City school board member, Joan Terrell-Paige, wanted to justify the murders of Hasidic Jews in her town, she ranted in a post about rabbis who trafficked human organs. It didn’t matter that the scandal she was referring to was from a decade earlier or that the people involved in that matter had nothing to do with the Jews of Jersey City. To Terrell-Paige it was all the same thing. JEWS.
The Facebook page of the Passaic chapter of the NAACP recently also used a scandal (the Lakewood defrauding one) from several years ago to justify why violence against Jews in different times and places is OK.
All the rules of don’t victim blame (another great advancement of this decade!) don’t apply to Jews. None of the rules apply to Jews. And that is because the scourge of anti-semitism is not a this-worldly phenomenon. It is a spiritual reality that is a product of our exile and the Talmud explains that when we received the Torah on Mt. Sinai, the world would hate us (“sinah”) because of the responsibility we brought to it with our laws.
I believe that we must work on every level – building bridges, added security, increasing education, being tougher on criminals. But ultimately, a spiritual problem will not be fully solved without a spiritual answer. And the Jewish answer to this millennia old problem is a unification of our people and a renewed commitment to our heritage. 2020 is not our new year, but we can all make a resolution any way: to do our part both in this realm and the spiritual one, to merit peace and Divine protection in the coming year and beyond.