Swastikas were found in an apartment building elevator on Friday afternoon in Brooklyn’s latest antisemitic hate crime. This time, the incident occurred in Williamsburg, a mixed neighborhood with a large Hassidic Jewish population. This incident comes on the heels of the firebombing of cars and antisemitic graffiti in Midwood and graffiti changing a sign at the Avenue J train station to “Avenue Jew” earlier this month. Moreover, this is the second such incident in this particular building this month.
Equally disturbing, I learned two weeks ago at Friday night services at my synagogue that a white supremacist was living in my neighborhood, a fact confirmed a week later by an article in the New York Daily News. Thankfully, public pressure has forced Allen Rouse to leave the neighborhood after rallies last year and earlier this month:
While neighbors on the heavily Jewish block in Gravesend said they had never seen or heard of Rouse, his landlord Joseph Sardar said Rouse is moving out next week.
“He is going to move out,” Sardar told The News. “Too many people are bothering him.”
My only response to that is: Good Riddance!
Unfortunately, Brooklyn’s antisemitic incidents this month represent a growing trend. An Anti-Defamation League survey released earlier this month showed an upswing in antisemitic sentiment among Americans. Today, 15 percent of Americans hold deeply antisemitic views. When the survey was last conducted two years ago that number was 12 percent. It represents a theme common throughout Jewish history, whereby during times of economic difficulty antisemitism among the general population would increase. This, unfortunately, is the case even in a country as historically welcoming and tolerant as the United States.
These numbers should come as no surprise given the latest hate crime statistics released by the FBI, which cover 2010. The FBI reported 1,322 incidents as being religiously motivated. Of these, 887 of them, some 67 percent, were classified as antisemitic incidents. Compare this to the fact that we are a mere two percent of the American population. Also, while the FBI classifies antisemitic incidents as racially motivated, given that Jewish is an ethnicity, and Judaism is the religion practiced by most of those that are of Jewish ethnicity, antisemitism is primarily an ethnic hatred, particularly given that to many, if not most antisemites, whether a Jew is a practitioner of Judaism is irrelevant.
These events remind me that I am a minority in this country. In these perilous economic times all minority groups face increased bigotry. Once again, Jews prove no exception to this disturbing trend, one we are, unfortunately, all too familiar with given our history of persecution and exile. While I continue to hope that these are isolated incidents, with each new one that is reported it provides evidence that these are no longer isolated incidents, but, rather, indicative of a new and disturbing trend. Remember, this isn’t happening in some place in the middle of nowhere with a small or non-existent Jewish population – it’s happening in New York.