Letter to the Editor

Non-Jews need to start caring about anti-Semetic acts

In middle school, one of my favorite pastimes was coming home from school on Thursdays and getting to read the police blotters. Most of what I read were traffic violations and petty theft. Occasionally there would be something more. Two incidents stick out in my mind, one from somewhere around 5th or 6th grade and the other from my 8th grade year. The connecting thread: Anti-Semitism. 

Since then there have been mass stabbings, bomb threats, shootings at other temples, and people on social media calling out that Jewish people needed to die because of our beliefs, and it feels like nothing has changed.

— Friedel

I am not naive enough to believe that this world is a perfect happy bubble, but I can acknowledge that I have the privilege to live in one. These were moments when my bubble was popped.

When the first incident occurred, I was no older than 12. I knew of the Holocaust and horrible things that had happened to the Jewish and Romani people. However, I had no reference point for more modern-day antisemitism. In the police blotter on that Thursday, I gained a reference point. The paper talked about how a group of teens had egged a few of the buses outside of temple Jeremiah, the large local reform synagogue in my community. They also spray-painted the buses with swastikas. I remember my mother on the phone with a friend from our synagogue, the smaller conservative one in town, questions about who it was, why, and how floated between them and implanted into my brain. I don’t really remember much else about how I felt that day other than shocked, but it has stuck with me ever since. 

The second event took place in October of 2018 just days after the Tree of Life shooting that had taken place in Pittsburgh. I remember hearing the news on the radio as my family was in the car. At first, I was shocked but when I got home, I cried tears of fear and frustration. I played a prayer, Oseh Shalom, on my guitar as I tried to find a sliver of peace in a moment filled with anguish and pain. Finally, some of the pain dulled until the police blotters came out. I scanned through the page as usual, nothing of interest caught my eye until I got to the very bottom of the page. In one of the last squares, it said that a bomb threat had been faxed to my synagogue. I freaked out, calling over my dad and calling my mom on the phone trying to get an answer to a question I barely knew how to ask. 

It was cleared up rather quickly. Our synagogue director said that normally they would ignore these types of things, but given the proximity to the Tree of Life shooting, they sent it to the police. I always knew that there were people who wanted Jews dead, but hearing this just days after our community was shaken broke me. 

I heard about the hostage situation, when a man had entered a Texas synagogue and taken 4 people hostage, first on TikTok, then online. Only Jewish papers were covering it at that time. I felt outraged. Hadn’t our community suffered enough? And then the anger settled into a discomforting numbness. Unlike Pittsburgh, I felt nothing. Since then there have been mass stabbings, bomb threats, shootings at other temples, and people on social media calling out that Jewish people needed to die because of our beliefs, and it feels like nothing has changed.

The only way to get through the day was to be numb. 

And I hated it. Have I really been so desensitized to these acts of hatred that I no longer feel anything? 

Soon after, in my family’s group chat, we realized we were only one degree of separation away from the rabbi who was being held hostage. And all of a sudden, the Jewish world I lived in that once felt big, now felt so unbelievably small. 

When the hostages were finally released, I let out a sigh of relief and thanks. Then the news reports came out and I was no longer numb, I was angry. Multiple news sources reported that the hostage situation had nothing to do with the Jewish community. He took 4 Jews from a suburban synagogue hostage. He made a call to a rabbi in New York demanding a prisoner’s release, like a rabbi could have that type of power. The truth is that the gunman believed in one of the worst stereotypes: that all Jews controlled the government. I laughed then as I laugh now at the absurdity of this claim. If we really controlled the government, events like this wouldn’t happen. 

I wish that I could say I was hopeful that in the future things will be different, better, but I cannot in good conscience believe that. At least not until more than just Jews care about what’s going on.  

-Ilana Friedel, ’23