Jewish Americans have cause to worry

As Jewish community centers across the country experience a wave of bomb threats and anti-Semitic hate crimes continue to rise, President Trump last week finally responded to the growing chorus of questions about the upsurge in anti-Semitism, calling the acts “horrible.” He added to the condemnation in Tuesday night’s address to Congress, saying that “we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

But the President’s response fails to fix the unfortunate state of his relationship with minority groups — including Jews — who are fearful of Trump’s rhetoric, policies and associations. Adding to this concern are reports that the President made comments Tuesday in a meeting of state attorneys general that the wave of anti-Semitic incidents could be false flags where “the reverse can be true.”

As Jewish members of Congress long committed to fighting anti-Semitism at home and abroad, we are deeply troubled by these terrifying trends.

 

 

 

Across America, Jews from Montana to Philadelphia face a frightening new reality of hate and terror. Jewish communities and institutions are on high alert, and it is not without reason. This week, Scarsdale’s Jewish Community Center of Mid-Westchester and Tarrytown’s JCC on the Hudson both received bomb threats. According to the New York City mayor’s office, there were 80 anti-Semitic incidents in the city between Nov. 1, 2016, and Feb. 23, 2017 — a 78% increase from the corresponding previous period.

Whether Trump chooses to acknowledge it or not, this disturbing cascade of hate directly correlates with his ascension to the presidency. Trump oversaw an exceptionally divisive campaign marked by dog-whistle rhetoric aimed at women, immigrants and minorities.

He maintained close associations with the alt-right movement — anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, white nationalist provocateurs — and repeatedly refused to disavow the support he received from figures like David Duke and other leaders of the white supremacist community.

Following the campaign, many of us hoped that the President would speak more critically against this alarming frequency of hate crimes. Yet his short tenure has been marked by an embarrassing number of missteps vis-à-vis the Jewish community — from the promotion of Stephen Bannon to the role of chief strategist in the White House, to the inexplicable doubling-down on the intentional omission of specific reference to Jewish suffering in the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day. 

We cannot overlook the fact that Trump’s condemnation of anti-Semitic acts came after extensive prodding and multiple missed opportunities. His continued refusal to address this issue head-on, bragging about the size of his electoral victory and berating an Orthodox Jewish reporter for asking him “unfair” questions, speaks volumes of how seriously this President takes this matter.

And the impact of Trump’s inaction has been far-reaching. American Jews have been made to feel unsafe in a country that has long served as a safe haven against the bigotry and violence of 19th and 20th century Europe.

Less apparent but equally troubling is how the failure to quickly and without equivocation condemn anti-Semitism undermines our ability to fight it. There are even reports that the President’s budget would cut the State Department’s special envoy position dedicated to dealing with anti-Semitism.

To members of Congress who worry about these issues, there is a fear that our government is quickly losing the credibility to call out anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and other abuses around the world.

People have a right to feel that their elected leaders are doing all that they can to ensure the safety and security of every community — regardless of race, religion or politics. Unless the administration takes serious steps soon to protect Jewish and other minority communities, Trump’s statements will be remembered as just words without action. It is our hope that the President will look to the examples set by local community leaders and law enforcement in responding to anti-Semitism, and that work can be done to make sure such hatred has no place in our society.

Nadler represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, Engel represents parts of the Bronx and Westchester County, and Lowey represents parts of Westchester and Rockland counties in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

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