by Rabbi Yakov Saacks, Director of The Chai Center in Dix Hills, NY
The following is true, yet really unbelievable.
Just a couple of months back on May 20, as the Jewish people were celebrating the conclusion of the most important holiday of Shavuos, protests were taking place all over the country over the execution of George Floyd by an out of control police officer who will face jail time, deservedly so. These protests, like so many, were hijacked by a mob who I believe took advantage of the crisis and robbed neighborhoods blind.
One of the places that had the protests which led to violence was in the city of Los Angeles, but not where you think. Los Angeles has City Center, the famous Hollywood Boulevard, Rodeo Drive, Miracle Mile, Staples Center, Beverly Hills, Chinatown, UCLA, California State University and so many others places of interest. However, that night the protests were in a specific place in the uptown Los Angeles neighborhood called Fairfax. I am sure you can guess what is special about Fairfax – nothing in fact, other than it is an area that is heavily populated with synagogues and kosher stores.
In addition to destruction and graffiti inflicted upon the synagogues, a number of kosher restaurants, bakeries and stores were ransacked by protesters, looting much of the merchandise and causing extensive property damage. Some of the stores impacted include Ariel Glatt Kosher Market, Mensch Bakery and Kitchen, and Syd’s Pharmacy and Kosher Vitamins, all located in this small area.
Some of the synagogues damaged as a result of vandalism, graffiti and looting by protesters include Congregation Kehilas Yaakov, Tiferes Tzvi and Congregation Beth Israel, one of the oldest synagogues in Los Angeles and the spiritual home to many Holocaust survivors over the years. At the latest count, at least five synagogues in the area were vandalized, as were three Jewish schools.
So, after the end of Shavuos, the holiday in which Jewish people joyfully commemorate the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, the Jewish community of Los Angeles concluded it with a new ritual of going to clean off the hateful graffiti from their houses of worship, while picking up the broken glass. One small business owner described a “late Saturday night with people driving down the Fairfax district streets screaming, ‘effing Jews.’”
I am not trying to be cute by calling this Kristallnacht, which means night of broken glass, I mean it literally.
One would think that after this kind of hate and the destruction of Jewish schools, shuls and many obviously owned Jewish businesses, you would hear it on the news in New York and not only in L.A. One would reason that this will be talked about in Jewish communities all over the world. Did you hear about the screaming mob cursing Jews and smashing Jewish institutions and businesses? I don’t know about you but I heard a quick blurb from a relative who lives in Los Angeles. Otherwise, I heard nothing at all. In truth, even after researching it for this unhappy article, I have not picked up on one meaningful response. For clarity’s sake, this was an attack on Jews for no other reason than they are Jews by an anti-Semitic mob in a large U.S. City. They were not incidental victims. The Jews were chosen that night. I see no other viable explanation.
Here is the source of anger. Over the past few months, I have received hundreds of emails, seen thousands of Facebook and Instagram posts and watched and listened to hundreds of hours as to the pros and cons of Black Lives Matter. What has been glaringly missing in my email box and social media is the atrocities committed against a neighborhood of U.S. Jews in 2020!
Every Jewish institution, including the one that I direct, has articles condemning racism after the George Floyd killing. I personally have written extensively on the matter. Have you heard a peep from any Jewish organization about the Los Angeles Kristallnacht? For that matter, have you heard any non-Jewish institution, political or otherwise, condemning the attack? Did you even know about the attack? Even in Los Angeles, one can hear crickets.
A few weeks ago, a group of far-left Jewish groups published an open letter to the community demanding that American Jews pledge allegiance to a “new covenant” which demands endorsement of Black Lives Matter. Hillel signed on. San Francisco Jewish Federation signed on. The Reconstructionist movement signed on. Did these same three organizations condemn the Los Angeles Kristallnacht?
This is why I am speaking out. I want no part of the hushed silence of racism because it happened to Jews. I spoke out and condemned the killing of George Floyd. I speak out now to the systemic racism of anti-Semitism even by some Jews.
What is most troubling to me and should be to the reader is that the same folks lecturing us on the dangers of remaining silent in the face of hate are themselves silent when the hate is directed toward Jews. It is indeed a sad day when the anti-racist activists who protest, march and sue are silent when something happens to the Jew.
You don’t fight anti-Semitism by running away from it. And certainly not by running toward it.