As the movement to defund/abolish the police has spread across the country, American Jews have been applying to immigrate to Israel. More American Jews applied to immigrate to Israel or inquired about it in May than in any single month over the last two decades, according to Nefesh B’Nefesh, a nonprofit organization that promotes Jewish immigration to Israel. Coronavirus and the rise in Anti-Semitism were mentioned as the two major contributing factors.
This and similar destruction of other minority owned businesses such as those in Chinatown/International District of Seattle has not received coverage in the mainstream media. There were no cross country rallies by others to support Jews following a rash of anti Semitic attacks in New York this winter.
The numbers show a dramatic and continuous rise in anti Semitism, especially in the wake of coronavirus. While the going leftist narrative of the rampant use police brutality and excessive force is pervasive, the facts do not bear that out. A Wall Street Journal article shows that this is a false narrative, and points out that "Officers are being assaulted and shot at while they try to arrest gun suspects or respond to the growing riots."
These events are a sampling of the threats Jews face on a daily basis and the bravery of the police officers who have come to our aid. The idea of defunding or abolishing police departments is a frightening idea for the Jewish community. Jewish communities rely on the police for our security.
On October 27 2018 I was standing in front of my synagogue talking with some friends when cruisers from the Seattle Police Department came racing into the parking lot. On the sabbath, observant Jews do not use electronics or cell phones so we were wondering what was going on and feared the worst.
Officers responding told us that there had been a mass shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue. They did not know if it was terrorism or if other communities were at risk, so they had been dispatched to guard over all synagogues in the area. Only after sabbath did we find out that 11 Jews had been killed and 6 others had been wounded including four police officers who risked their lives to save others from a gunman yelling “All Jews must die!”
The response system by the SPD to attacks against synagogues had been put in place locally, following a shooting at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle on July 28th 2006 where a gunman yelling “I’m a Muslim American, I’m angry at Israel” shooting 6 women and killing one. Police responded and were able to apprehend the shooter.
In December 2019, two shooters entered a Kosher supermarket in New Jersey thinking it was the entrance to a Yeshiva next door. The Jewish store owner and a Rabbinical student who was shopping there were killed, as well as one of the store employees. Detective Joseph Seals was also killed trying to stop the attacks and 2 other officers were wounded-year-old male rabbinical student customer Moshe Deutsch.
On the 7th Night of Chanukah during a celebration, a man walked into a New York Synagogue with a machete and began slashing at congregants. Five people were injured one of those fell into a coma and died 2 months later. The assailant was arrested by the police and it was discovered that he may have been involved in other anti Semitic attacks and had a journal with anti Semitic writings, references to Hitler and Swastikas.
Every synagogue and school I have ever attended has armed guards, multiple cameras and security systems and procedures along with congregants who carry weapons for backup. As children we were friends with the guards and engaged with them regularly. They were part of the fabric of our community. My children do the same today.
Perhaps there was no national conversation because it would be an uncomfortable one when the public realized that not only were Jews the biggest target of hate crimes in the US while being only 2 percent of the population but that the majority of these Anti-Semitic attacks are not committed by Neo Nazis or white supremacists, rather by other minorities.
This weekend, I sat down my children and for the first time had to discuss with them the possibility of moving for our own safety. I told them the history of our family and about the relatives that waited until it was too late to leave other places. We all agreed reluctantly that defunding or abolishing police departments would be our sign that it is time to go.
In New York, home to America’s largest Jewish population, Mayor Bill DeBlasio breaks up Jewish prayers and funerals but allows riots, looting protests and memorial services of thousands of people not social distancing or wearing masks. There is a joke going around: “Why do Jews break a glass at a New York wedding? So DeBlasio will think it is a riot and not break it up.”
We all seemed to be united in denouncing the murder of George Floyd. We seemed poised for a countrywide conversation which could have led to changes in recruitment, screening and training of police officers. Now, the conversation has been hijacked by activists, assailants and arsonists. Everyone has dug in harder to their respective corners. We are about to throw the baby out with the bathwater by defunding or abolishing police.
The peaceful protesters get upset and cry foul over being grouped together with the rioters, looters, and criminals. It seems shockingly similar to all the great police officers getting grouped together with the few bad ones. Most police departments condemned the tragedy and vowed to never let anything like it happen again and even marched in protests. For their efforts, they were attacked, doxed, threatened and vilified. Many are talking about early retirement or resigning. Meanwhile, be it by political posturing or lack of staff in police departments, our vulnerable communities, not just Jews, are left exposed.
Jewish communities in Greater Seattle are located where they are because we were forced to leave the Central District during the turmoil of race wars in the 1960’s. Black Panther groups and sympathizers would attack Jews in the streets and beat up Jewish children in public schools. The police could not help us. The whole community decided it was time to go and did. Our synagogues and schools were sold and new ones were built elsewhere. The old buildings still bear our religious symbols if you know what to look for.
It remains to be seen if the entire community will pick up and move again. There are more Jews living in Israel than the rest of the world combined. Perhaps these are all signs that it is time for our wandering to end and for us to finally go home.