Wednesday, June 30, 2021



Antisemitism can be subtle: a threat not-a-threat. In which case, it can be darned hard to know how to respond. That was the upshot of a recent thread on a Jewish mommies group on Facebook.

The thread begins with a long story, a kind of plea for help. A Jewish woman living with her family in a townhouse reports feeling intimidated by the behavior of a man living across from her who works for the management of her building complex. This man appears to be spying on her family and acts in a strange and vaguely threatening manner. She notes that one of her children is black. 

But there's not enough about this vague threat, about this man, to bring to the police. The man's suspicious conduct is amorphous: not specific enough to pin down as such, or to report. 




In the comments section, our Jewish mom reveals that she is actually afraid to go to the police. She fears that if she does report the man to the police on so little evidence, not only will there not be enough to bring him in or do anything about him, but he might find out that she went to the police. He might retaliate.

All of these issue would be true of a restraining order, as well. On what basis would she request such a measure? The man hasn’t done anything overtly threatening. He hasn’t burned swastikas into her lawn, yelled “Kike,” or thrown feces at her. Reporting the man (she calls him “The Nazi”) or taking out a restraining order may not effect anything other than to anger him. And what if the man is mentally unbalanced? How will he react to a Jewish woman taking measures against him to protect her family?

The women responding to this nightmare tale of woe were full of goodwill and advice, most of it along the lines of: Get a camera, gather evidence, go to the police, get a restraining order. Don’t wait.

None of this was helpful. Our Jewish mom lives in an America where the police are being defunded—where cops think twice before responding. How can she be sure she’ll find a policeman who is sympathetic and helpful? How can she control any fallout generated by the neighbor finding out that she cast suspicion on him (hint: she cannot). What good will photographic evidence or recorded conversations do if they chance to fall on blind eyes, deaf ears, or loose lips?

There are just too many variables.

Antisemitism is a funny thing and at times can be subjective: what seems blatant antisemitism to you, may be dismissed by someone else and even by the police, the IHRA definition of antisemitism notwithstanding. So there’s this insecure feeling about pointing out antisemitism when we see it. We wonder if we're being oversensitive. Maybe we imagined it.

We’re not sure. So we put our heads down. We retreat, and tread carefully.

At other times, we're sure, because the antisemitism is by all accounts blatant and rearing its head, as it is now. Our leaders speak out, some hands get slapped, which sometimes drives the antisemitism temporarily underground. It's still there—we just don’t see it.

This can’t be a good thing. Because when you drive antisemitism underground, you don't know how many antisemites there are, who they are, or what they are thinking and planning. That's why some believe it’s better to let the fountain flow, to not to stop the antisemitic tweets, utterings, and writings. It’s better to know what and with whom you are dealing, than to render the danger invisible, hence anonymous.

How can one defend against an unknown, unseen enemy? The simple answer: you can’t.

This week, I had an unpleasant confrontation with an American Jew on Twitter, a so-called “Zionist” who told me in public on social media—as opposed to by direct message—that Israel is not doing enough to combat the exploding U.S. antisemitism that most people directly connect to Israel’s Operation Guardian of the Wall. I got the message loud and clear. He thinks it’s Israel’s fault that American Jews are now experiencing antisemitism.

This man implied that he did all this stuff for us, for instance he has a Zionist Facebook group with thousands of members (big flip) and now we’re not doing anything for him/them, American Jewry at large.

What is the connection between these two stories? The shadowed, frightened Jewish mother, and the Zionist who feels he’s not getting his money’s worth from Israel? It’s that many Americans don’t know what to do with antisemitism.

They’d heard of it anecdotally, of course. They know about the Inquisition, the Dreyfus Trial, and the Holocaust. But all that stuff that happened TO OTHER PEOPLE, a long, long time ago. What do they do when antisemitism comes for them NOW? Wall yourself off while mumbling “Never Again” like a mantra from behind the closed curtains of your living room?

For my part, I told Mr. Zionist that he was a jerk (and no Zionist) for publicly criticizing Israel for not doing enough about antisemites being antisemitic.

With the Jewish Mommy, on the other hand, I took pains to offer useful advice. First, I found the ADL website and its report form. Then I thought nah. Jonathan Greenblatt is on the wrong side of things and I don’t trust him, see, for instance: A Member of the Anti-Defamation League’s Diversity Council is Embroiled in an Anti-Semitism Scandal. The Anti-Semitism Watchdog Has Nothing to Say About It.

So instead I went to the internet and dug up the report page (https://www.stopantisemitism.org/report-an-incident) on the Stop Antisemitism website. There, I actually know someone, Liora Rez, so I know it’s a reputable place. I told Jewish Mommy to fill out the report form right away, and not to be concerned about any possible backlash from the neighbor. The people at Stop Antisemitism are experts: people who already know whom to contact and what to do about even subtle antisemitic activity.

I knew that they would know what words to say to the right sympathetic ears in the security sector.

It was the smart thing to do.

I was upset about the Jewish Mommy all that day, and it disturbs me still, when I think of her story. I have continued to monitor the thread, but other than “liking” my comments, she doesn’t seem to have acted on my advice.

I can’t blame her for that. She doesn’t know me from Adam. Why should she trust that I am giving her good advice, or directing her to the right place?


In the meantime, I worry about her and her family. I’m afraid I’ll see them in the news—that they’ll be splashed on the front pages of the New York Times. (Though I shouldn’t be. After all, why would they be on the front page of the New York Times? They’re not “oppressed Palestinians.” They’re JEWISH. So not news.)

I worry that some Americans, at least some that I have witnessed, don’t know how to respond to subtle antisemitism: the kind of antisemitism that lurks around the edges, ever coming closer, as you remain too afraid to do anything at all about it.

And the truth is, there’s not all that much to do about antisemitism, whether expressed or repressed. Haters gonna hate. It’s always going to be the Jews for themselves—but don’t count on that, either, considering people like Greenblatt, Ken Roth, or Peter Beinart, who hope that the crocodile will eat them last.

One thing all of us can do about antisemitism, no matter where we live, is to hold our heads high and our shoulders back, proud to be Jews and proud to love Israel, our indigenous land. Because being meek is definitely not the way to go.

Haters look for weak spots. Being meek marks you as weak and turns you into prey. That means that if you’re not really sure how you feel about being Jewish, or whether you really, really love Israel and are unafraid to claim EVERY PART OF IT as your indigenous territory, you’ve created a weak spot and turned yourself into prey. And this is contagious. It's something you transfer it to your children, this weakness, this fear.

It’s the meekness that turns you into prey. (That and being whiny, like the dude on Twitter who threatened to tell on me to his thousands of followers on his “Zionist” Facebook group.) So buck up. Own it. Be in your face Jewish.

Let me be clear, I’m not advising anyone to take to the streets to face down anyone who is terrorizing you or your family. (Seriously. Don’t do that.) But don’t let them smell the fear on you, either. Be proud to be Jewish. It’s about a communal attitude that may make a difference over time, for you and for your children.









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