Jewish institutions up and down the Eastern Seaboard are being targeted, with vandalism reported in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania and our own Jewish Community Center of Greater Baltimore in Park Heights one of 16 JCCs nationwide to receive a bomb threat last week.
Investigators, according to the Jewish Federations of North America’s Secure Community Network, blamed the rash of threats on robocalls, but that only explains the how — not the why or the who — behind the scare. It could have been the work, like most bomb threats, of an attention-seeking sicko; but it also could have been the work of someone or something much more sinister.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t feel safe. The fact is millions of dollars are spent each year increasing the security posture of Jewish institutions. Vigilance, instead of fear, should be the principle by which we go about our lives.
But for all of the concern we shower on our community being the target of outside persons or groups, I humbly suggest that we should also be concerned about the way some in our community target each other.
As you’ll read in this week’s JT, the Jewish community, like the rest of America, is split. Much of the split concerns competing visions of what a future Israel will look like in the Middle East, and according to some observers, the fissure is getting wider. It wasn’t too long ago that Jews backing the Iran nuclear deal were denigrated as kapos. And in even more recent memory, some have taken to identifying those Jews who either supported incoming President Donald Trump or are assisting the new administration as traitors.
How can we claim to stand up against the hatred from without if we do not actively temper the hatred from within?
Each of the people quoted in our cover story this week voice principled positions, although few of them agree on much of anything. The Jewish body politic cleaves along religious lines, social justice lines and sometimes even socioeconomic lines. But in our pages at least, you will find civil debate — not mudslinging.
That bodes well for us as a community, because we bear the responsibility to return civility and acceptance to the public sphere. If we, as Jews, are really being targeted, the best thing we can do is to stand up against hatred as a unified people. That doesn’t mean that we need to purify our views; it means only that we need to purify our speech.