Unfortunately, what we are currently witnessing in this society are the makings of a perfect storm for racism and anti-Semitism. A pandemic out of control, an economy in a tailspin, and a nation facing political uncertainty and social tension, all factors that create an environment conducive to producing hate and creating the seeds for violence. The seeds of discontent serve to undermine the principles and practices of American political culture.
This is an extraordinary period in the American historical journey! But it is also a transformational moment for the State of Israel.
This fall, Americans will be determining the future direction of this nation, not only in shaping its political voice but also defining its moral compass. What type of a society will we become in our third century? A confluence of factors is playing out. Is this the American “Spring”? Will the unfolding events surrounding this pandemic, the fallout in connection with the issues of racial injustice, economic dislocation, and social discord fundamentally change our democracy and our civic culture?
The Jewish community is facing unprecedented challenges. Here’s how we move forward.
There is no sugarcoating this moment: We are facing extraordinary challenges as a country — and as a community. These sets of challenges are inherently linked; when democracy and civil society are threatened, so are Jews. And in many ways, the Jewish community is a reflection of the larger struggles of American society.
There has been a tremendous response of American Jewish institutions to stand up and be counted in support of Black Lives Matter. The vast majority of American Jews support the overall goals of the BLM Movement — to finally and comprehensively address systemic racism in our society. And, importantly, that includes a look inwards at our own community and the persistent barriers and prejudices that have precluded full participation of Jews of color at all levels of Jewish life.
The New Anti-Semitism: The Delegitimization of the Jewish People
We are experiencing a fundamentally different form of anti-Semitism. This current iteration represents a fundamentally different set of characteristics from prior expressions of hate. Key aspects of this global expression of hate operate differently from prior forms of anti-Jewish expression:
How anti-Semitism is being delivered What messages are being conveyed What are the intentions of the contemporary anti-Semite
The Morning After: What We Need to Know about the Coronavirus and Ourselves
As I have previously written, “the impact of the Coronavirus on the America will be profound, just as it will dramatically reshape the Jewish communal world.” Of particular concern are the significant number of Americans who will be adversely impacted first by the virus and then the Covid economy.
This major unfolding saga will need to acknowledge the deep emotional, physical and financial toll on our citizens. But this pandemic moment also provides us with an opportunity to extract what we have learned about ourselves, this nation, and our community.
The Jews Poisoned the Wells: Anti-Semitism in our Times
The Times of Israel
It is essential to understand that society has jettisoned a seventy-year time frame where the memorialization of the Holocaust was seen as sacred and essential to humanity’s understanding of itself and its inherent capacity to commit evil. Two lessons were conveyed during this period: a fundamental push back against political hate and genocide as a problematic proposition and a particular and distinct acknowledgement and sensitivity to the uniqueness of the Jewish historical experience.
In this era of the Coronavirus, we are observing a sharp uptake in anti-Semitic activities. Reports released by various governmental and Jewish organizations report an increase in anti-Semitic activity on the world stage. Over half (54%) of Jews in America have either experienced or witnessed some form of incident that they believed was motivated by antisemitism over the past five years.
What is Happening Now and Why? In this report, we are examining seven manifestations of anti-Semitic practice.
Moving Beyond: Strategies for Restarting our Community
This will be the most expensive crisis in history! The “economic pandemic” may be more painful and challenging than the health crisis itself. In the process of our national recovery, we will be rewriting the rule book on human behavior and organizational change. Already much has been written on the impact of the Corona Virus on long-term social behaviors, public policy, and cultural trends. Even on this site, we are reading various prescriptive ideas guiding us in our thinking about the future.
“If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in His sight, and wilt give ear to His commandments, and keep all His statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee” (Exodus 15:26).”
Throughout much of history, the Jewish response to plagues was to plead for God’s mercy and forgiveness. We are told in the Book of Numbers (17:13) when an epidemic killed Israelites following Korah’s rebellion against Moses and Aaron, the dying stopped only once Aaron burned incense to assuage God’s wrath.
American Jewry is facing a financial and structural crisis. The economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic will be devastating to the American Jewish communal system and of immediate concern to a significant number of Jewish families and seniors. The longer this crisis continues, the broader and more destructive the impact will be on our communal and religious enterprise!
The immediate concern must be for vulnerable families and seniors as income streams are frozen and as communal resources diminish. The longer-term realities would suggest an economic tsunami that will be both wide and deep, affecting broad segments of the Jewish institutional landscape and placing substantial pressure on the core resources of our fundraising and foundation networks.