Liberal Jews guessed it would be a white supremacist. Right-wing Jews predicted a Muslim extremist.
None of us expected a Jew.
And, dare I say, none of us wanted it to be a Jew, either.
Today’s announcement that an Israeli American teenager had been arrested for allegedly making more than 100 bomb threats to JCCs, Jewish schools, ADL offices and other U.S. Jewish institutions was a punch straight to the gut. My Facebook feed is filled with comments that say, simply, “Oy.”
Oy is right. How much more comfortable we would have been if a neo-Nazi or an Islamic terrorist were behind the heinous series of bomb threats perpetrated against our community these past two months. That would justify our worldview, be it “look at the hatred Trump’s election has unleashed” or “we’ve got to crack down on Islamic terror.” But a Jew? What an embarrassment.
Guess what. Embarrassment passes. And whatever we do, let us not shove this under the carpet. The fact that a Jew has been arrested for committing these crimes by no means lessens the threat that all minorities, including Jews, continue to face in this country, with public expressions of hatred and bigotry cropping up on an almost daily basis. This twisted 19-year-old now in custody in Israel did not vandalize Jewish cemeteries in Rochester, Philadelphia or St. Louis, all crimes that remain unsolved. He did not distribute anti-Semitic leaflets at UC Berkeley nor leave hate-filled fliers on car windshields in Lafayette. He did not fly the Confederate flag at a parade last fall in Petaluma, or torch a mosque in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
And he was not part of the crowd that shouted “Here’s a Jew, let’s burn her” to a teenager last week in Belmont, as we reported this week.
All of these things happened.
But one person’s deranged actions could very well make it harder for the Jewish community to rally the world when the next anti-Semitic crime wave hits. Others might see us as crying wolf.
So let’s not breathe easily just yet. We live in an America where hatred and prejudice have become normalized, an America where racists, homophobes and anti-Semites seem to believe it’s OK to publicize their hateful rhetoric.
We don’t yet know what motivated the teenager arrested this morning at his home in Ashkelon. But we do know that he did not commit his actions in a vacuum. The same poisonous atmosphere that gives rise to hate attacks in Orlando, in Paris and, yes, in Belmont, nourished the cyberviolence he is accused of perpetrating against our Jewish community these past two months.
And that’s what we will continue to call out, what we must keep fighting to prevent and extinguish.