There was a time when Bay Area Jews took cold comfort in the belief that the rising tide of anti-Semitism was not lapping at our own shores. Despite the murder of Jews in a Paris kosher market, neo-Nazis marching in the streets of Stockholm and Charlottesville, and even the incomprehensible horror of the massacre at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue nearly a year ago, we continued to hope and believe it could never happen here.
Then we bore witness to the deadly shooting in a Poway Chabad center in Southern California a few months ago. And now comes the so-called “Straight Pride Parade” in Modesto and the posting of blatantly anti-Semitic flyers in Santa Rosa and Novato.
Truth be told, no place today is immune from the world’s oldest hatred, not even our famously tolerant and open Bay Area.
That Aug. 24 Straight Pride rally was, ostensibly, not unlike countless such gatherings of evangelical Christians opposed to abortion, same-sex marriage and other perceived social ills. But this group had an additional agenda. They showed up to defend “whiteness” and to rail against a “private banking cartel,” according to one organizer using classic coded language to describe Jews.
No place is immune, not even our famously tolerant and open Bay Area.
Thankfully, as our story points out, members of the Modesto Jewish community and their interfaith allies inside and outside the area turned out in force to counterprotest the event and make their feelings known. With songs, chants and prayer, they pushed back against the haters, outnumbering them by orders of magnitude.
At least the Straight Pride organizers had the chutzpah to appear in public and identify themselves. Not so with the cowardly vandals who went out in the dead of night to paper two North Bay towns with idiotic flyers claiming Jews masterminded the 9/11 attacks. The perpetrator, who goes by the moniker Handsome Truth, never reveals his true name, though he’s only too happy to spread lies about Jews and throw in with an outfit called the Goyim Defense League, which pranks celebrities into unwittingly reciting anti-Jewish messages.
This week, YouTube shut down Handsome Truth’s channels, but he appears on other channels, spewing the same lies.
We draw two lessons from this recent spate of hate. First, we must remain ever vigilant. We cannot let our guard down in protecting our physical safety, especially with the High Holidays approaching.
The second lesson is that this is still America. While the haters have First Amendment rights and can freely assemble, the same is true for those of us who oppose their message. We must always call out anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry whenever and wherever see them. They may never stop, but neither will we.