Image: Vandalism to more than 100 graves in the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia was discovered Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017. (Michael Bryant/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP and SFGate.)
- Vandals did major damage to Jewish cemeteries in Missouri and Pennsylvania since January.
- Five waves of bomb threats have targeted Jewish institutions in the U.S. since January. The majority of the threats were to Jewish Community Centers, which house programs for children and seniors.
- Offices of the Anti-Defamation League in Manhattan and San Francisco have received bomb threats since January.
Those are the big stories. There are countless other smaller stories of vandalism and hate speech against Jews in the United States in 2017. The year began with graffiti at my alma mater, which I wrote about in Jew-Hatred Hits Home.
For more details about the attacks, and official responses to the attacks, I suggest an excellent article in the Huffington Post, Another Wave of Bomb Threats Hits Jewish Community Centers, Schools.
Here is what ordinary citizens can do to address this wave of Jew hatred:
- Recognize that this is part of a wave of hate crimes in America. This report from the Southern Poverty Law Center details the rise in anti-immigrant, anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-LGBT and anti-woman activity since the election. Anti-Muslim hate crimes surged 67% in 2016.
- Call or write your elected officials at every level of government expressing concern about the uptick in hate crimes in America. Don’t let up. When you’ve called them all, call them again. If you write, use postcards. Envelopes are much slower, since they require extra security (remember anthrax?)
- When you see law enforcement or elected officials taking action, reward their behavior. Write a letter to the local paper, email your thanks to them directly. Animal trainers will tell you that carrots are much more effective than sticks in shaping behavior. Don’t miss any opportunity: it may indeed be their job, but too often it is a thankless job, so saying “thank you” is important.
- Be patient with security measures at threatened institutions. The enemies are the bigots, not the receptionist who asks your name and business before she buzzes you into the building. She is trying to keep everyone safe by verifying your identity.
- Reach out to coworkers and friends who are members of threatened groups. Tell them that you stand with their group (and mean it.) Demonstrate your solidarity in any way that presents itself (an invitation to dinner, showing up at a rally, donating to a fundraiser for repairs of vandalism.)
- Have zero tolerance for hate speech. Be clear with anyone talking smack about any threatened group that you disapprove. If you have trouble thinking what to say, just drop your jaw and stare at them until they get the message. (My thanks to Mary Hofmann for this technique.)
- Block haters on social media. Don’t engage – they love engagement. Unless they are someone with whom you already have a relationship, you are unlikely to change their minds, and any “zinger” you fire off will just delight them and cause them to come back for more. Most social media platforms have a blocking function. Use it immediately to cut off their fun.
- Keep in mind what terrorists want: they want us to be afraid. Make the decisions you need to make for your families, but to whatever degree possible, do not allow terrorists to dictate your life. If you talk about this on social media, do not advertise any fear they have managed to stir up; save that for private conversations. In public and semi-public forums like social media, keep in mind that haters are listening, too, and don’t give them what they crave: your fear.
- Support the organizations that fight hate. Join or send a donation to the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. These are not government organizations. They cannot function without our support.