The fight against bias and hate

Monsey /
| 08 Jan 2020 | 06:17

    (AP) A menorah in the window. It's a simple act — a public display of light, accompanied by joyous song.

    Saturday night, Dec. 28, the light was darkened by a man wielding a machete, who stabbed five people during a Hanukkah celebration in the predominantly Jewish community of Monsey in Rockland County. Federal investigators found anti-Semitic journal entries and internet searches in suspect Grafton Thomas' home and on his cellphone.

    The horrific attack was at least the 10th anti-Semitic incident in the region in one week. Men, women, and children wearing head coverings or the garb of Orthodox Judaism have been punched, slapped, kicked, or screamed at, with anti-Semitic slurs. One man threatened to shoot and kill people at a Brooklyn Chabad center. Earlier in December, three people and a police officer were killed in a shooting spree targeting a Jersey City, New Jersey, kosher market. At least one perpetrator was connected to the Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement with hate-group elements, also referenced by the suspect in the Monsey attack.

    There is a dangerous undercurrent here, in part fueled by social media and online forums where those with anti-Semitic leanings contribute to one another's ugly rhetoric and action, so one crime can lead to another.

    As Hanukkah ended, the search for answers continued. But there is no simple answer. It's not easy to stop hate, or people who act on it, and combating the internet's dark corners is complicated. But we must not stop trying. In the last few years, anti-Semitism has come out of the shadows. In the past week, violence and public displays of hate occurred daily. We say "never again'' about the atrocities of the Holocaust, but attacks on Jews are happening again, and again. It must stop.

    An increased law enforcement presence in synagogues and Jewish communities is necessary. So is teaching tolerance, and addressing the internet's role in providing a home for hate to grow. We must stand together in solidarity. Members of the Jewish community must feel able to live their lives in peace and in public, without fear or terror.

    The celebration of Hanukkah is based in a time when Jews fought evil, found a way to rebuild, and discovered a miracle in a small jar of oil that lasted for eight days, now symbolized by the lighting of the menorah. As a year that had much violence and hatred ends, we must enter the next one with the promise that we, too, will rise against that hate, and find our own miracles to keep the light shining.