As we wind up a tumultuous year, it’s disturbing to learn about yet another prominent violent attack on a group peacefully practicing its religion. 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, located next door to his Congregation Netzach Yisroel synagogue in Monsey, N.Y., was attacked by a man wielding a knife on Saturday night. The attacker stabbed five people, including the rabbi’s son, and left one person critically wounded, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told The Associated Press.
“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 was present and fought back, hitting the assailant with a coffee table, told the AP.
Shortly after fleeing, the attacker was arrested by police.
A pastor associated with the attacker’s family said he had been suffering from mental illness and that his family believes that condition was the cause of the alleged stabbings. But on Monday, federal prosecutors filed hate crimes charges after recovering handwritten journals in which the alleged attacker had expressed anti-Jewish viewpoints.
The attack was 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 attack 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 symptomatic of “an American cancer on the body politic,” 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.”
Police have increased patrols and other activities in nearby neighborhoods with large Jewish populations.
Anti-Semitism is like every other prejudice — it’s 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.
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, a Greensboro police officer, Lt. Stacy Morton, was “separated” from the police department by a special order 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.