I have viewed with alarm the increase in antisemitic attacks on Jews here in America as well as in other parts of the world.
Sometimes rhetorical, sometimes physical, from New York to Los Angeles, Jews and Jewish institutions have been assaulted by individuals and organizations protesting actions of the government of Israel.
To be sure, Jews in the United States have faced horrific acts of antisemitism.
And, yet I can argue that the unabated bigotry directed at Black Americans, as well as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Sikh, Hindu and Muslim communities remains a larger problem, resulting in far more physical injury and social disadvantage.
It is also worth acknowledging that Jews of color face discrimination because of multiple parts of their identity.
So, perhaps you understand that from the perspective of someone who views America from my perch, I try to assess the intensity with which we should draw focus on my fellow Jews.
There should be no threshold that a community faced with hatred, violence and discrimination needs to pass in order for society to confront the aggressors.
We must be able to balance the need to address problems as they flare up without losing focus on the larger areas of systemic racism that continue to plague us.
The increase in incidents of antisemitism we have seen in recent weeks is one of those circumstances we all must confront. And it requires integrity from our many allies.
I have been involved in interfaith work throughout my four decades as a rabbi. I have been proud to support and advocate on behalf of other faith communities when they find themselves in a moment of crisis.
I can also tell you that it is often difficult to get support for interfaith initiatives on behalf of the Jewish community.
There are exceptions, and I note the Muslim Public Affairs Committee among them. But more often than not – including right now – the silence or reserved statements from allies is readily apparent.
Let me be clear that there is no suggested quid pro quo here. I ask nothing of anyone in return for my commitment to act against racism, intolerance and injustice.
I try to understand this dynamic; American Jews have become comfortable in claiming to be part of the privileged class.
The network of Jewish advocacy, social service, religious and defense organizations is vast and specialized; it has served as a model for other communities looking to integrate into power and politics in this country.
In fact, it was only a few years ago that I was invited to participate in a panel discussion organized by a group of prominent community members of Asian American and Pacific Islanders, who were looking at how they could model the organizing success of the Jewish community.
I am also well aware that support for the State of Israel is an accepted tenet for most Jewish organizations, rising to the level of a certain justification of Israeli government actions even when being critical of that government’s policies.
I suspect that many of the allies of Interfaith Alliance likely do not want support for issues affecting American Jews to be seen as supporting Israel’s government, or maybe even Israel itself.
Perhaps it is in part an unfortunate consequence of efforts in some segments of the Jewish community to suggest that any criticism of Israel is antisemitism.
But that argument is specious and should not be enough for allies to stay on the sidelines when the Jewish community is under attack.
Integrity demands that if Jews are being vilified, vandalized or victimized because of an assumed association, that those who support religious freedom and oppose hate crimes will stand up and be counted.
A yarmulke is no more of an excuse to be attacked than a hijab. A biblical surname is no more a reason for exclusion than a Spanish one.
A pedestrian in a Jewish neighborhood should not be targeted any more than one in an Asian neighborhood. A synagogue painted with hateful slogans is no less deserving of support than a mosque, a gurdwara or a church.
Allies need to speak up for each other – and act – without equivocation or qualification.
Interfaith Alliance will continue to stand with allied communities.
We count more than 75 professions of faith and no faith among our members, and every one of them deserves that we remain devoted to the mission of our organization to protect their faith and freedom under the Constitution. And we will.