As we wind up a tumultuous year, it’s disturbing to learn about yet another violent attack on a group peacefully practicing its faith. It seems to signify the worst of what we experienced in 2019 and can only lead us to hope and pray that 2020 will be better.
A Jewish group celebrating Hanukkah at the home of Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg, next door to his Congregation Netzach Yisroel synagogue in Monsey, N.Y., was attacked by a man wielding a knife on Saturday night.
Screaming, “I’ll get you!” The New York Times reported, the attacker stabbed five people, including the rabbi’s son, and left one person critically wounded.
“The guy came in wielding a big knife, sword, machete — I don’t know what it was … He took it out of his holder, started swinging,” Josef Gluck, who fought back, hitting the assailant with a coffee table, told The Associated Press.
Shortly after fleeing, the attacker was stopped and arrested by police, who have increased patrols and other activities in nearby neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.
After handwritten journals expressing anti-Jewish viewpoints were found at the alleged attacker’s house and similar evidence was discovered on a phone, federal prosecutors filed hate crimes charges in the case on Monday, saying that the assailant was driven by “anti-Semitic sentiments.”
The stabbings were the latest in a string of violent attacks targeting Jews in the region, including a Dec. 10 massacre at a kosher grocery store in New Jersey and an assault last month on a man who was walking to a synagogue in Monsey.
It was the 13th anti-Semitic attack in New York since Dec. 8 and an ugly symptom of “an American cancer on the body politic,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
“This is violence spurred by hate, it is mass violence and I consider this an act of domestic terrorism,” Cuomo said. “Let’s call it what it is.”
President Trump condemned the “horrific” attack, saying in a tweet Sunday that “We must all come together to fight, confront, and eradicate the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.”
Anti-Semitism is like every other prejudice — it is based on fear, misinformation and the worst kind of stereotypes propagated against people who are in some way different. It’s encouraged by the “replacement theory” — that minorities are attempting to “replace” white people — promoted almost openly now by representatives of some media organizations.
We might think this a problem that only occurs elsewhere, but we’d be wrong.
Back in September, white supremacist propaganda was found at Temple Emanuel in Winston-Salem and on an online blog naming the synagogue, leading the temple to call the police, the FBI and other authorities. A Winston-Salem police investigator said the propaganda contained offensive and disturbing content that he declined to describe in greater detail.
Also in September, disgusting racist and homophobic emails that called for a purge of minorities and members of the LGBTQ community were sent to 12 faculty and staff members at Wake Forest University.
And earlier this month, Lt. Stacy Morton, a Greensboro police officer who had headed the vice and narcotics division, was “separated” from the department after being seen at a public gathering of an organization, Israel United in Christ, that contains a faction that is both racist and anti-Semitic, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Anti-Semitic violence springs from anti-Semitic rhetoric. It can’t be allowed to take root and fester, in New York or in North Carolina.
It falls to decent people everywhere to condemn bigotry and reaffirm the rights of all to practice their religion in peace.