For years, American Jews watched with horror as multiple attacks were visited upon the Jews of Europe. Whether a day school in Toulouse, a synagogue in Copenhagen, a kosher market in Paris or a Jewish museum in Brussels, each act of terror shook us. Yet we clung to a sense of safety here, thousands of miles away from the carnage.
Then came Pittsburgh. And Poway. And several thwarted anti-Semitic attacks on American soil — including a recent threatened slaughter of Jews here in the Bay Area and the subsequent arrest of the East Bay suspect — any of which, had they been carried out, would have further shattered our illusion of protection.
It’s impossible to avoid the truth: We are not as safe as we thought we were.
Our cover story this week explores the ways Bay Area synagogues have reassessed their security needs, and the steps they are taking to keep congregants safe. From hiring additional guards and participating in active-shooter trainings, to accepting grants from the state and our local Jewish Federation, synagogues and other Jewish institutions have begun taking steps they wish were never needed.
As Rabbi Dovid Bush of the Chabad center of Petaluma told J., “It would be amazing if we didn’t have to take these measures. But it’s become part of our life.”
We will never be silent and we will never succumb to hate.
Why is this happening at this moment in history? It’s a complicated question, with answers beyond the scope of this space. It has to do with a host of seemingly unconnected issues that together make for an incendiary fusion: climate change, food scarcity, migration patterns and refugee crises, economic inequity, nationalism, populism and tribalism, all of which foster a “circle the wagons” mentality. That mentality often goes hand in hand with pinning blame on the “other.” All minorities are at risk, including Jews in the diaspora.
Whatever the root causes, we have no time to delay. We must protect our communities and, at every turn, condemn resurgent anti-Semitism and those who espouse it. We will never be silent and we will never succumb to hate.
Still, it is worth taking a moment to lament this dark shift in our history. Though it wasn’t always easy for Jews in America — our grandparents and great-grandparents lived through the days of quotas, restricted clubs and street corner bullies — since the end of World War II, we have enjoyed a golden age of peace, prosperity and unparalleled security. How deeply sad to know that we are the generation to see that swept away.
But this is still America. We have our allies, we have our Constitution, and we have each other. That is how we will get through these times.