All 100 Senators Call for a Robust Response to Anti-Semitic Threats
In recent months, six waves of bomb threats have targeted a variety of Jewish institutions, including more than 100 threatening calls to Jewish community centers, the Anti-Defamation League headquarters, Jewish day schools, and synagogues. Threats elsewhere have involved more material attacks. In Indiana, a gunshot was fired through a synagogue window on February 26. Luckily, no one was in the building when the incident occurred late on a Sunday night. Unfortunately, this was not the only such act of vandalism in recent weeks and months. For instance, synagogues in Philadelphia, Chicago and Lorain, Ohio have also been vandalized with broken windows and swastikas and threats etched onto buildings.
Jewish cemeteries have also become targets in this wave of anti-Semitic incidents. Headstones in Jewish cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis were both vandalized in February. In Philadelphia, over 75 headstones were overturned, while nearly 200 in St. Louis were damaged. Vandals also damaged headstones in a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, N.Y., at the beginning of March.
In a strong show of support for the Jewish community, all 100 U.S. Senators on signed a letter calling for “swift action” with regard to the threats. The senators addressed the letter to Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director James Comey and urged them to work directly and closely with Jewish institutions to take enhanced security measures in light of these incidents. Senators Gary Peters, Rob Portman, Bill Nelson, and Marco Rubio spearheaded efforts around the letter. That all 100 Senators came together to take action against anti-Semitism is a crucial symbol of unity in combatting such threats and sowing strong community bonds in the face of hate. The Union for Reform Judaism, along with several other Jewish organizations, also endorsed the letter.
While initially President Trump did not make any statements regarding these incidents, he eventually did denounce these bigoted and hateful attacks after a fourth wave of anonymous calls on February 21, 2017. Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, responded,
“President Trump’s condemnation this morning of anti-Semitism is as welcome as it is overdue… President Trump has been inexcusably silent as this trend of anti-Semitism has continued and arguably accelerated. The President of the United States must always be a voice against hate and for the values of religious freedom and inclusion that are the nation’s highest ideals.”
These terrifying threats and attacks unfortunately remind us that anti-Semitism is not a relic of the past and that the United States is not immune to this phenomenon. In the face of such hate, we must recommit ourselves to the vital work of social justice and stand with our friends, neighbors and allies who are also facing a spike in hateful incidents.
To learn more about the Reform Jewish community’s work on anti-Semitism, please visit the Religious Action Center's ssue page. To stay up to date on the pressing issues of this time, check its Urgency of Now page for regular updates.