United States of Stress and anxiety: The new fears of American Jews

United States of Stress and anxiety: The new fears of American Jews

They’re worried about antisemitism and violence on the ideal driven by progressively active white supremacist groups with funny names and unfunny programs.

By URIEL HEILMAN/JTA

OCTOBER 27, 2020 23: 42

'WHAT SEPARATES American Jews and Israel is, well, everything... [yet] we ought to celebrate those differences, not bemoan them.' (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)' WHAT SEPARATES American Jews and Israel is, well, everything ...[yet] we ought to celebrate those distinctions, not complain them.'( picture credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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‘ WHAT SEPARATES American Jews and Israel is, well, whatever …[yet] we ought to commemorate those distinctions, not bemoan them.’

( picture credit: Wikimedia Commons)

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American Jews are distressed.

They’re stressed over COVID-19, which currently has actually eliminated a quarter million Americans and is spreading more quickly as winter approaches. They fidget about a precarious financial future.

They’re concerned about antisemitism and violence on the right driven by significantly active white supremacist groups with amusing names and unfunny programs, like the Proud Boys, QAnonand the Boogaloo Bois.

They were unnerved when some Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the spring and summertime were accompanied by occasional violence, lawlessness, and anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vandalism. They’re uneasy with the rise of a specific sort of progressivism in some corners of the left that seeks to make assistance for Israel a political and ethical sin.

Most of all, nevertheless, they fear for the death of American democracy.

President Trump has spent months undermining the legitimacy of the Nov. 3 vote, and he hasn’t dedicated to a serene transfer of power if he loses. It’s possible that a challenged election– or perhaps a clear win by one prospect or the other– will result in massive civil unrest and political mayhem. Jewish institutions are being informed by the FBI to brace for possible violence around Election Day, no matter who wins.

And in a community that is sturdily Democratic– surveys reveal American Jews prefer Joe Biden over Trump by a 75%-22%margin– most American Jews are deeply anxious about the possibility of a 2nd Trump term and what that might suggest for the future of the nation they call house.

Among Trump’s Jewish advocates, including most Orthodox Jews, there’s a worry that a Biden win will speed up a breakdown of law and order and elevate a progressive left that’s hostile to religious beliefs and the Jewish state and intent on turning America into a socialist nation.

” It’s a time of terrific anxiety in America normally, and it’s not restricted to Jews. There is a real concern that America is declining. The coronavirus has actually just heightened it,” observed Jonathan Sarna, a historian of American Jewry at Brandeis University. “If one understands that the deep worry is that America’s finest days are behind it, then this anxiety is not just temporary, but especially for Jews– who matured with stories of the Holocaust– the question is: Possibly we must be looking around.”

For the first time in memory, American Jews are talking seriously about obtaining 2nd passports, “simply in case.” They’re checking out emigrating to Canada, acquiring citizenship from a European country, or immigrating to Israel. This year, a record number of American Jews started applications with Nefesh B’Nefesh, the company that handles aliyah from North America.

” A surprising variety of Jews, if they’re honest, have had a discussion that would have been unimaginable for them 10 years ago: What if we have to leave the country?” Sarna said. “What’s the Plan B?”

Liliana Schaefer of Winchester, Virginia, is the majority of the way through the process of acquiring citizenship from Germany, where her father was born.

” I’ve been seeing a rise in antisemitism on both the left and the right, and although I identify with more leftists politics it’s making me be more scared,” said Schaefer,19 “I simply want to have an additional passport. Europe is a location I can delegate if things get bad here.”

Schaefer added, “You can never ever have a lot of passports. It’s constantly great to have a backup strategy. That might be intergenerational trauma talking, however having an escape is constantly a great idea.”

Heather Segal, a lawyer in Toronto who has actually been handling immigration questions for 25 years, says she’s never ever before seen interest this high by Americans aiming to move to Canada. Most of her clients are American Jews.

“‘ I’m not going to get stuck,'” Segal states her customers have informed her. “There’s going to be a civil war. It’s going to be the end of democracy. I’m really worried for our future. I don’t want to wait and see what happens. My grandparents left Poland in World War II.”

They say: “I never ever believed that I would be searching for this. I’m well established in the United States. My family is here, my organization is here. This is not something I ever thought would happen or that I even thought about.”

Segal included, “That line is not one individual saying it. I hear it a number of times a day.”

While the last few months of illness, civil unrest and political tumult has actually brought American Jewish anxiety to the fore, it had actually been building gradually for years, surveys recommend. In the June 2019 variation of an annual survey carried out by the American Jewish Committee, 65%of participants stated they considered the status of American Jews less safe and secure than a year previously (15%stated it was more safe), up from 55%in2018 In this year’s survey, launched this week, 43%said U.S. Jews are less protected than a year ago and 52%stated it has to do with the same as in 2015.

In previous years, when the question inquired about antisemitism specifically, 41%stated in 2017 that antisemitism was a major issue in the U.S., up from 21%in 2016, 21%in 2015 and 14%in 2013 (there was no survey in 2014).

Antisemitism in the house

American Jews generally consider antisemitism as something that happens over there– in France, in England, online, in the Muslim world.

But the signs that antisemitism has gotten home have ended up being harder and harder to overlook: Months of attacks versus Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn in2019 The massacre in Pittsburgh at the Tree of Life synagogue in October 2018, which killed 11 and was the deadliest-ever anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. The shooting at the Chabad of Poway, California, in April 2019, which killed one. Attacks weeks apart in December 2019 in Monsey, New York City and Jersey City, New Jersey, in which four people were eliminated by assaulters.

” First, we require to acknowledge the problem for what it is: an epidemic. We are no longer speaking about separated, occasional actions– bad enough as those are– however a regular phenomenon,” composed a Jewish congresswoman, Nita Lowey, along with the head of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, in an op-ed in The New York Times that month. “Second, we need to acknowledge that there are several ideological sources feeding this paroxysm of hate; it is not an outcome of a single political outlook.”

Today, the anti-Semitic belief seems to come from all sides: QAnon conspiracy theorists who, alleging that Satan-worshipping Democrats are running a secret worldwide pedophile network, are likewise promoting traditional anti-Semitic tropes. University student who bother and marginalize Jewish trainees who dare to honestly support Israel or fail to denounce Zionism as racism. Black athletes and stars publishing anti-Semitic messages on social media.

Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is heavily favored to win her election next month to the U.S. Legislature, has actually postured for images with a previous neo-Nazi leader, shared a video with an anti-Semitic claim about “Zionist supremacists” attempting to flood Europe with refugees and promoted conspiracy theories that implicate George Soros and the Rothschild family of attempting to manage the world.

Then there are the actual anti-Semitic incidents, which struck an all-time high in 2019, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Over 2,100 occurrences of anti-Semitic attack, vandalism and harassment occurred in 2019, consisting of five killings. In 2020, pandemic lockdowns that limited outdoor activity appear to have actually minimized the number of actual anti-Semitic attacks. Anti-Semitic rhetoric has actually grown online, where some conspiracy theorists blame Jews for spreading the virus.

With coronavirus cases now disproportionately high in New york city neighborhoods with big haredi populations– and following raucous presentations by haredim in Brooklyn’s District Park community objecting pandemic constraints– some New york city Jews are fretted about a possible anti-Semitic backlash against all Jews for spreading out the infection.

Much of the antisemitism appears to have absolutely nothing to do with the infection. When Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the cops killing of George Floyd spread out across America in May, synagogues in Los Angeles, Wisconsin, Minneapolis and elsewhere were vandalized by anti-Semitic or anti-Israel graffiti. In late August, arsonists set fire to the Chabad home at the University of Delaware. Days previously, a Chabad home in Portland, Oregon, caught fire– twice (authorities are examining the cause). In October, a self-described skinhead pleaded guilty to a plot to explode a Colorado synagogue.

Synagogues in America now regularly have security at the entrance– a practice that’s been prevalent in Europe for decades however was rare in the United States up until a few years ago. Some of the funding for securing Jewish institutions comes from the U.S. government in the type of grants from the Department of Homeland Security.

The election

Possibly no element weighs more heavily on the minds of American Jews right now than the upcoming election.

The stakes are high. Biden’s Jewish supporters– consisting of roughly three-quarters of U.S. Jews– share the fears of U.S. Democrats generally: A 2nd Trump term, they worry, would further stoke the divisions in American society, impede an effective U.S. response to the coronavirus and continue to hollow out U.S. organizations from the Centers for Illness Control to the State Department.

They’re likewise stressed over Trump’s approach towards white supremacists. In this season’s very first presidential debate, when Trump was asked by mediator Chris Wallace (who is Jewish) to plainly condemn the Proud Boys– a group of violent, armed conservative extremists– Trump said: “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” His declaration was rapidly taken up as a rallying cry by the Proud Boys. After a torrent of criticism, Trump consequently issued a more strong condemnation of white supremacy.

The pattern was similar to Trump’s response to an August 2017 “Join the Right” presentation in Charlottesville, Virginia in which marchers carrying torches shouted “Jews will not change us!” and a reactionary demonstrator eliminated one anti-fascist counterprotester in a car-ramming attack. Trump drew widespread criticism for initially condemning the “hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” instead of specifically calling out the racist and anti-Semitic organizers of the occasion. He then slammed neo-Nazis and white nationalists, but also stated there were “extremely great people” on both sides of the protests.

Trump’s Jewish supporters– largely Orthodox, according to one current survey by an unnamed company that showed Orthodox Jews prefer Trump by 83%to 13%– have their own concerns about a Biden win: violence and discontent on the left, welcome of anti-Semitic or anti-Zionist progressives by the left-leaning political, cultural and corporate facility, and a White House that takes a harder line on Israel.

At the exact same time, there are a lot of Republican politician Jews who share Jewish Democrats’ stress over antisemitism from the right, and Democratic Jewish voters who are worried about anti-Israel sentiment on the left.

The author Bari Weiss, who grew up in Pittsburgh going to Tree of Life, has repeatedly implicated Trump of developing an environment in which right-wing racists and anti-Semites feel emboldened. At the exact same time, she has been a popular voice warning versus trends left wing that might weaken the location of Jews in American life.

” Did you see that protesters tagged a synagogue in Kenosha with ‘Free Palestine’ graffiti? Did you become aware of the march in D.C. where they shouted ‘Israel, we know you, you murder kids too’?” wrote Weiss, a former New York Times viewpoint writer and author of “How to combat Antisemitism,” in a current piece in the online Jewish publication Tablet. “There is another threat, this one from the. And unlike Trump, this one has actually achieved cultural supremacy, recording America’s elites and our most powerful organizations. In the event of a Biden triumph, it is difficult to picture it meeting resistance. So let me make my function completely clear: I am here to sound the alarm. I’m here to say: Do not be shocked anymore. Stop saying, can you believe. It’s time to accept truth, if we wish to have any hope of fixing it.”

One seemingly undecided Jewish voter in New york city, Arnie Vocalist, explained his political predicament as a choice in between his heart and his brain.

” The question is with those voters who align with the Republican platform but can’t swallow Trump, the male. He has actually made it very tough for us, since while we may like some of the things he has done (tax cut, Middle East/Israel policy, organization frame of mind), we dislike the way he interacts, bullies, throws tantrums, and caters far ideal sympathies (although he himself is not a blatant racist and certainly not an anti-Semite).

” A choose Biden,” Singer wrote on Facebook, “is also an elect a Democratic celebration that has actually wandered off too far to the left, and has a powerful segment whose Israel policy scares us. Biden himself may not scare us, those who will influence him and who will inevitably take his location in 4 years (or sooner) do.”

On both right and left, there is a creeping feeling among American Jews that the orthodoxies that have supported their sense of security in what was once considered “the goldene medina” (the golden land) are dissolving. Maybe American democracy is not unshakeable. Maybe liberalism is not an impenetrable guarantor of Jewish safety. Perhaps the disasters that befell Jewish neighborhoods somewhere else in the world could happen here, too.

Ben Sales added to this report.

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