Yesterday, They Came For The Jews

The tragic shooting in Pittsburgh yesterday has left a dark cloud over me. While every mass shooting is truly awful, the anti-Semitic intent hit home particularly hard for me. This was an attack on my community and my people, the deadliest attack against Jews in United States history. While I am not particularly religious in my Judaism, I said the Mourner’s Kaddish, the prayer for those recently lost, to myself as I read the names of the victims this morning.  

I am fearful that the kind of violent anti-Semitism we had previously only seen in history and on the other side of the world has now reared its ugly head in the U.S. I have read about rabbis calling in extra police protection for their Sunday Schools today and having to worry about active shooter drills and escape routes from their synagogues. This is not what should be happening in any place of worship in this country.

If the Jewish people are to survive dark days like yesterday, we need non-Jewish allies who are just as willing and active in speaking out against anti-Semitism as they are against any other form of hate that we see in this country. Many in Claremont like to think of themselves as activists or strong supporters of social justice causes. However, my experience as a Jew on campus does not instill confidence in me that those who stand up for social justice will stand up for me today. I instead remember all of the times that I have heard, explicitly or implicitly, that anti-Semitism is not a real problem in the contemporary United States, and that not much needs to be done to address it. Especially looking at the last 24 hours, this cannot be further from the truth.

In moments like these, it is crucial to show support for the community that are the victims of violence.  People can no longer deny the danger of anti-Semitism in America. The Jewish community needs non-Jewish allies who will stand up and speak out against attacks on our community. And the Jewish community needs to stand up and speak out against attacks against others.

This terrible time also provides an opportunity for our Claremont community to look inward to examine the issues the Jewish community faces on our campus. While the Claremont Consortium is very much a bubble, and may not have as severe of an internal threat of far-right anti-Semites, anti-Semitism on the left is alive and well, and must be addressed all the same. Here is an initial overview of some of the origins of anti-Semitism, and why many on the left are often blind to their own bias. While reading one article alone will not be enough, I hope it can start to open the eyes of our campus to the anti-Semitism that happens here. We as a Claremont community need to be aware and willing to speak up against all forms of bigotry and hate, while also recognizing that we can’t expect other people to show up to support us if we are not supporting others

I want to end with a poem, written by German pastor Martin Niemöller about his experience in pre-World War II Nazi Germany:

 “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

I encourage you to think to yourself: how did you react to the news from Pittsburgh yesterday? What have you done to support the Jewish community in this difficult time? Complacency is not an option. Yesterday, they came for the Jews. What are you going to do about it?