It happened again. We are now just a couple of days removed from a deadly attack at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City that targeted, and murdered, Jews. While any deadly terror attack is enough to send chills down the spine, there are some more-disturbing-than-usual details about this particular and most recent horror. After doing a bit of reading on the immediate aftermath of the shooting, there is concern among the Orthodox Jewish community that any news of an attack against the “visibly Jewish” generally gets relegated to the back pages. Some in the Orthodox Jewish community also wonder whether the majority of Jews in America actually really care much at all.
The fact that any Jewish person might feel this way should trouble us all, especially those of us who consider ourselves to be Jewish. No matter what temple, synagogue, or schul one goes to–Jews are Jews. It does not matter if one wears a kippah and dons payot or exhibits no identifiable signs of Judaism–Jews are Jews. Regardless of whether one speaks English or Yiddish as a primary language–Jews are Jews. You see, we can make our own distinctions based on our level of halachic observance and our specific interpretation of the Torah. We can call ourselves Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative, Orthodox etc. You know who ultimately does not care about whether there is a kippah on your head, or if you believe the only Temple should be in Jerusalem or not? The anti-semite. The anti-semite hates Jews. The anti-semite will eventually target any and all Jews.
When the “visibly Jewish” Orthodox community is targeted, all Jews should immediately take heed. How the most identifiable members of a particular group are treated serves as an indicator of the overall societal climate and attitude toward said group. I have already discussed Pittsburgh, Poway, and attacks in Brooklyn. Jersey City is simply the latest in a deadly string of terror that should not be buried in the newspapers and online news sites underneath a story about how many NFL teams are interested in Antonio Brown. If those who were murdered had looked like everyone else, and acted like everyone else, wouldn’t there still be outcry?
It is vital that we as Jews, and truly as decent human beings, do not allow these happenings to disappear into the “right now” culture of Jenner and Kardashian. Payot or not, we are talking about Jewish lives–human lives. The Mishkan T’Filah claims that in every place where suffering weeps, the Jew weeps.
As Jews, it is time to weep. Weep, dry the tears, and do not normalize the terror. Our very lives are in the balance.
Baruch Dayan Ha’emet,