Less than a week after a man armed with an assault rifle killed 11 Jews in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, a Brooklyn man scrawled anti-Semitic slogans on a synagogue in New York City, the latest in an epidemic of hate that has been building for two years and shows no signs of abating.
The numbers from this year are clear. New York City police have investigated 290 hate crimes, 142 of them anti-Semitic. The total is up slightly from the year before and the total of anti-Semitic crimes is up more than 12 percent.
With the city as the epicenter, the state leads the nation in this shameful category with 380 anti-Semitic incidents, including harassment, vandalism and assault, representing nearly 20 percent of the crimes in the nation and outranking the state with the second-highest number, California, by more than 100.
Local rabbis watch this alarming trend and notice that for “the past two years we see it more out in the open,” as Rabbi Shmuel Serebryanski, of Chabad of Eastern Orange County in New Windsor, put it. As Rabbi Rebecca Shinder of Temple Beth Shalom in Florida said, “Something is going on in our country to make it acceptable for people to spew hate.”
Much of the attention on the more open display of hate speech has focused on politicians, especially on President Trump and his language concerning immigrants. But you don’t have to look far to see the same language and the same intolerance.
Just visit Facebook and look for comments or stories about Kiryas Joel. Those who feel threatened by the population increase of the Hasidic village feel no compunctions about expressing their hateful opinions for all to see, making wild claims with no verification and using terms such as “cockroaches” and worse to describe their neighbors.
Those who are confronted about their use of this hate speech claim that what they are doing is different, that they are somehow making a political statement, that they are not anti-Semitic or that they are merely complaining about unfair favoritism shown by politicians who seek votes from a community which often votes in large blocs.
In fact, many local campaigns have boiled down to two fights — who is going to oppose high taxes and who is going to oppose Kiryas Joel.
On Tuesday we get to vote for those people who will lead the state, the state Legislature and who will represent us in Congress. Most voters will look in vain for a candidate whose stands match theirs on every issue. Democracy is viable only when there is compromise and that compromise starts with Election Day when voters back those with whom they agree most often but not always.
As those who lead synagogues and other houses of worship make sure that people know what to do in the case of an armed attack, how to find a secure hiding place or a safe route out, as people of all faiths or no faith gather to mourn the deaths of victims and the death of civility, we have to remember that hate is very much on the ballot today.