To say the United States is living through a daunting, unique period of time might indeed be an understatement. Unfortunately, what’s not unique and remains a constant is the pervasive antisemitism throughout certain sectors of the country and the complicity of many Jewish organizations themselves in this blight.
With all the burning, looting, and rioting going on in American cities, has anyone heard any uproar over the wide scale destruction of Jewish institutions in Los Angeles, this past May? If the answer is no, neither have I. Along with Synagogues, numerous Jewish-owned buildings and stores were defaced and in some cases torched. Many were desecrated with anti-Semitic graffiti, too graphic to repeat.
According to Paul Koretz, Fairfax district Councilman, he "watched the fires, looting, and antisemitic hate crimes and incidents. Under the guise of protests, some advanced their antisemitic agenda.”
He went on to say:
"Across the street from Beth El, the Kosher Mensch Bakery and Kitchen and the Jewish-owned clothing store Go Couture were destroyed. Stores on the fashionable Melrose Avenue, were also damaged, as were multiple Jewish institutions in the area: Congregation Beth Israel, Congregation Tivereth Avi/Morasha Educational Centre, Shaarei Tefilah Synagogue, and the Shalhevet school for girls.”
Marnina Wirtschafter, a 26 year old, Jewish resident of Los Angeles, was likewise outraged at a June 2nd rally. She felt it was her duty “to show up for others because "it’s the Jewish thing to do.” Shamefully, she wasn't referring to the aforementioned, antisemitic, pogrom.
Instead both she and another Jewish woman, Kelsey Goldberg, were at a Black Lives Matter march where Wirtshafter further pontificated: “We need to continue to read and uplift black voices. We need to let them know and let your own community know that you are no longer willing to be complacent in racism.” Goldberg, 31, chimed in that she has attended many Black Lives Matter protests and has been involved with social justice activism for several years, attending many such marches. It begs the question, why these young women weren't as outraged over the injustices their fellow Jews had just suffered by the very group they were marching with? Aren’t Jews living in their own town also entitled to social justice and legal justice as well?
Chutzpah layered on top of chutzpah. Morton Klein the President of the National ZOA had the audacity to answer those very questions, pointing out in tweets what should have been obvious to all: “BlackLivesMatter is an anti-Semitic, Israel hating, Soros funded, racist, Israelophobic hate group.” He followed up with: “I urge the SPLC (Southern Poverty Law Center) to immediately put BlackLivesMatter on their list of hate groups. BLM is a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters.”
For expressing what only the willfully blind could deny, Klein was subjected to his sworn enemies giving voice to an anguished outcry of hate Vociferously, he was denounced as a “racist,” “bigot,” and xenophobe.
If you think the recriminations were coming from BLM, you’re sadly mistaken. Sixteen of the fifty one member organizations of the Conference of Presidents issued a separate letter on June 12th condemning Klein’s comments, and called for the removal of the ZOA from the Council of Presidents.
Unsurprisingly, not one word about the antisemitic riots just days earlier was mentioned by any of Klein’s sixteen disparaging groups. It’s not surprising because with the exception of the ZOA no other Jewish organization in the United States has the intestinal fortitude to publicly confront and maintain pressure on egregious acts of antisemitism.
This past December, a black man named Grafton Thomas crashed a Hannukah party at the house of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg in Monsey, New York. Brandishing a butcher knife, he immediately began stabbing five people, one of whom, Rabbi Josef Newmann, succumbed to his injuries. Investigators found handwritten journals expressing antisemitic views, including material about Adolf Hitler, "Nazi culture", and drawings of a Star of David and of a swastika among Thomas's possessions.
With so much evidence of it being a hate crime and over a hundred guests at the party recognizing him as the assailant, you would think it was a slam dunk case. Guess again. This past April 20th, a federal judge ruled Grafton was incompetent to stand trial and ordered him to be hospitalized in a mental facility. He certainly was competent enough to research Nazi culture, cross state lines, seek out the Rabbi’s address, and commit murder, but not enough to stand trial. This dastardly event came on the heels of a 30 year old Hassidic kollel student was stabbed multiple times on his way to Synagogue in Ramapo, New York, two months earlier.
There isn’t a person on the planet that hasn’t heard of George Floyd, so why aren’t the names of Rabbi Newmann and that kollel student equally familiar? I think all unbiased, serious minded people know the answer to this question.
With the exception of the ZOA, a sort of Stockholm syndrome has set in amongst Jewish leadership in and out of congress. They fail miserably confronting the present scourge of anti-Jewish violence, opting instead to support groups such as Black Lives Matter that inspire, and are complicit in the antisemitism we’re now witnessing.
In an article published in, The Jewish News of Northern California, entitled: “Over 400 Jewish Groups and Synagogues Sign a Letter Supporting Black Lives Matter." The opening paragraph reads: “More than 400 Jewish organizations and synagogues in the United States, including a number in Northern California, have signed on to a letter that asserts “unequivocally: Black Lives Matter.
Not one word about the outrages committed against Jewish communities by members and supporters of this hateful group. Worse yet, far too many march in tandem with them.
Jerold Sobel is the founder of the ZOA of Southwest Florida and has been its president for the past 10 years. He has a master’s degree in international relations from CCNY and resides in Naples, Florida.