On Dec. 2, a vandal defaced public road signs and advertisements in Johnston with hateful images: a middle finger extended over the word “Islam”; a black man and white woman superimposed by a circle with a diagonal line; and a picture of Adolf Hitler with the message, “Next time…no more Mr. Nice Guy.”
We could say this was just a prank to anger minority groups, or the work of a sad person with mental health problems. All that is probably true. But we don’t have the luxury of just ignoring it.
Last month, the FBI released data showing a 17% spike in incidents of hate crimes over the previous year. The fastest growing category is anti-Semitic crimes, which grew by 37%.
The racism growing in America today attacks Black people, Latino people, immigrants, Muslims, and Jews. Most American Jews think of themselves as white (although 10% of American Jews identify as “Jews of Color”) and, as a result, many believe we are immune to racist hatred. We cannot believe that anymore. Jews are now the top target for a racist ideology that is becoming bolder and louder.
The Jewish community needs to make common cause with our friends who are also targeted. If American Jews have been wary of aligning ourselves with movements to confront racism, anti-Islamic hatred, and hatred against immigrants, we need to get over it. We are past the time when we can say, “First they came for” somebody else.
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser
Temple Sinai, Cranston