One small business owner described a "late Saturday night with people driving down the Fairfax district streets screaming, 'effing Jews'".
At the latest count, at least 5 synagogues in the area were vandalized, as were three Jewish schools.
One would think that the hateful vandalism of 8 Jewish institutions and a mob screaming slurs after trashing Jewish businesses would lead to some sort of meaningful response. But that would be the optimistic perspective of people who haven't experienced the unmitigated level of cowardice and appeasement that comprises Jewish institutional life at virtually every level.
In June, my inbox has been littered with missives from assorted Jewish organizations, institutions, and even, shamefully, synagogues, some good and some bad, wringing their hands over George Floyd's death, and timidly condemning violent responses, while failing to mention the racist attacks on Jewish businesses and institutions by supporters of the anti-Semitic Black Lives Matter group.
While a few national organizations condemned the "F___ Israel" and "Free Palestine" graffiti on one synagogue, that has been the extent of it. Not only the Reform and Conservative movements, but the Modern Orthodox movements have largely remained silent about the defacement of synagogues and the destruction of Jewish businesses. The OU press office put out a release which mentions racism four times and the vandalized synagogues and businesses not at all.
The Rabbinical Council of America put out a press release describing Floyd's death as a "murder" while claiming to "stand together with all who fight racism, bigotry and hatred." Perhaps the RCA could also take a minute to stand with their Jewish brethren.
Major synagogues in the Los Angeles area have piously condemned racism, but not the hatred that defaced synagogues and schools. Many of those synagogues belonged to people from outside their community, but their solidarity, which reaches to a dead ex-con in Minneapolis, can't seem to stretch far enough to touch the Moroccan and Haredi Jews who suffered in the riots.
Generic condemnations of violence are not enough. Not only have Jewish organizations failed to call out the anti-Semitism of Black Lives Matter, they've effectively jumped on to its hateful cause. And they have maintained a hushed silence about the devastation wreaked on the Jewish community.
The same folks lecturing us on the dangers of remaining silent in the face of hate are silent when the hate is directed toward Jews. That is the sad legacy of American Jewish civil rights activism which fights anti-Semitism by joining together with anti-Semites to fight racism. A mere 70 years of folly isn't all that much when you're thousands of years old. But it ought to be enough. Let it be enough.
You don't fight anti-Semitism by running away from it. And certainly not by running toward it.
The purpose of fighting anti-Semitism isn't to defeat an abstract hatred. That's the dead end of fighting racism. It's to maintain our own rights and dignity. That's not a privilege we've always had.
But we do now.
Decency and self-respect alone compel us not to remain silent. And if we do remain silent, while chanting the cause of those who vandalized our houses of worship and shops, we will have neither decency nor respect. We will have become as contemptible in our own eyes as we already are in the eyes of the Black Lives Matters pogromists who did this knowing that there would be no response.
Fighting anti-Semitism doesn't mean launching educational programs. It means, as Mordechai told Esther, "If you remain silent now, salvation will come to the Jews from some other place, and you and your father's house will perish."
All those many generations ago, the Jews faced genocide because one stubborn old sage refused to take a knee before a brutal thug and abandon the aspirations of his people.
A Jewish organization or synagogue that takes a knee before brutal thugs and refuses to speak up when Jews are attacked is not worthy of claiming to speak for Jews. It is not worthy of Jewish support or loyalty. I, personally, will not donate to any Jewish organization or synagogue that sends me a George Floyd letter, but says nothing of the pogrom in Fairfax. I encourage you to do the same.
UPDATE: The official Young Israel statement condemns both Floyd's death and the attacks on synagogues.
We believe that peaceful demonstrations are a foundation of our democracy. Hatred and violence are abhorrent behaviors that have no place in our society, and we commend the family of George Floyd for issuing a public call for peaceful protests in the wake of his heartbreaking death. Accordingly, we also believe that violent demonstrations and wanton attacks on businesses, including African American-owned establishments, are immoral and illegal, and we were shocked to learn about the murder of retired St. Louis police captain David Dorn, an African American who was killed while trying to protect a local store from violent demonstrators.
We are also outraged that the vandalism and violence that we have seen over the past several days included attacks on synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, some of which were defaced with anti-Semitic messages. Just like the police force needs to be restructured to eliminate hate, it is crucial that those who are demonstrating peacefully make it clear that there should be no expressions of violence and anti-Semitism by any protestor in the context of the demonstrations. Fighting hate with hate is reprehensible and counterproductive, and we therefore support the efforts by law enforcement to maintain order, prevent looting, and end the violent demonstrations.
I don't agree with everything in the YI release, but I applaud them as the first Modern Orthodox organization which, to my knowledge, has commented on the attacks on synagogues and Jewish stores. I obviously also applaud the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) for its leadership in standing up for Israel and the Jewish community.
The Conference of Jewish Affairs and Rabbi Aryeh Spero issued a statement condemning Black Lives Matter antisemitism and the attacks on Jewish institutions and shops. Here's an excerpt.
“We at the Conference of Jewish Affairs are appalled and angered by the wanton destruction that rioters in the Los Angeles area have wrought on Jewish synagogues, institutions, and shops in the significant Jewish area along Fairfax. Much of the destruction and defacement of these Jewish synagogues and stores is deliberate and targeted acts of anti-Semitism.
“We have known for years that Black Lives Matters is an abhorrently anti-Israel and anti-Jewish organization. This anti-Semitism has trickled down from Black Lives Matters into large segments of those rioting.
“We are bewildered by the lack of any condemnation from the major Jewish organizations in Los Angeles or around the country against these willful acts of anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews and Israel. It seems that for many Jewish organizations the cause of Black Lives Matters is more important than the safety and dignity of Jewish institutions and individuals. Once again, multitudes of Jewish people are being asked to sacrifice their safety and dignity in behalf of causes the Jewish leadership deems more important."
UPDATE: Agudah probably has the strongest statement on the subject.
We are also greatly saddened by the frightening scenes of innocent bystanders and store owners under siege, threatened by violence and mayhem, and facing the prospect of lost livelihoods and uncertain futures. We are deeply distressed, as well, by the looting and vandalism that included assaults and provocations against citizens and law enforcement officers sworn to keep the peace and ensure the safety of our citizens.
So, it is at this very moment that we remember our Torah’s admonition that it is precisely by extending compassion, empathy, and understanding to the strangers, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens in our midst – regardless of our racial or ethnic backgrounds – that we will be shepherded safely through these troubled times, and at all times. That it is by feeling the pain of others and building a sense of community that we will merit Heaven’s healing and unifying embrace.
Let us commit ourselves to that. And, in doing so, we pray that the Merciful One will guide American society and its leaders to ensure the rights and safety of all citizens. May peace among, and respect for, all sectors of American society emerge from this national trauma.