Many of our readers found this article offensive, claiming that it unfairly targets antisemitism on the right to the exclusion of the thinly-cloaked antisemitism of the left.

But I didn’t write this article to discuss antisemitism on the left or on the right. I didn’t write it to discuss antisemitism at all, and certainly not to dabble in partisan politics. The article is about our responsibility today as Jews to heal America.

Because Jews living in America have a responsibility for the moral welfare of America. Jews living in the world are responsible for the moral welfare of the world. It’s G‑d’s world, after all.

What happened in Pittsburgh and in Poway are clear signs that America desperately needs healing. Both of these vicious and bloody attacks were fueled by 4chan, an online haven for bigoted and armed hatred-mongers. Their common belief: The supreme white race has been victimized by the Jews, who have orchestrated a flood of immigration to pollute American blood.

Their numbers are rapidly growing. A University of Alabama study of 2016 data indicated about one in twenty white, non-hispanic Americans—or 11 million—agree with them. Even if it were one-tenth that number, it is significant enough to indicate a nation at war with itself.

Hatred has broken its bounds. If we run away, it will run after us; if we arm ourselves, it will arm itself better. We have to face it and fix it here and now.

Cure This

We may be in the first era in history when Jews can actually do something to heal anti-Semitism.

I’m in sunny, laid-back California, and here of all places people are combating the sudden rise of this new-old illness on the right. It’s clear that both the attack at Chabad of Poway in April and the Pittsburgh Tree of Life attack just six months earlier came out of the increased brazenness of the alt-right neo-anti-Semitism—something we had always marginalized and almost ignored in this part of the world. In 2018, anti-Semitic hate crimes spiked by 37%—almost entirely from this segment of society.

One of my students, a hard-working, bright young man, has swiftly achieved renown as “the tactical-combat rabbi.” He’s the go-to guy for synagogue security, training congregants to subdue an armed gunman in a large crowd.

While he was delivering his workshop at my local Chabad shul, another activist was distributing brochures on “fighting anti-Semitism.” These people have their own strategy—taking on both right and left as though they were one and the same: Fight for tougher hate-crime legislation and make sure they’re implemented to the fullest extent. Protest as loud as you can whenever some anti-Semite crosses any “red lines.”

All good, all important. We can’t allow ourselves to be sitting ducks in the pews. But I don’t imagine there’s a single person who believes that any of this will decrease the ominous rise in the antisemitic assault that’s hit us by surprise inWhen you treat the symptoms to the exclusion of the cause, you’re enabling the illness to fester and fortify. the past two years. Five and half million American white supremacists and the millions more who think like them are not going to suddenly change their minds because our security guards are armed with assault-rifles and we have the Feds on our side.

On the contrary, when you treat only the symptoms to the exclusion of the cause, you’re enabling the illness to fester and fortify. If your doctor only gave you a cream for the rash, an aspirin for the headache and Tums for the stomach pain, watch out for what’s coming next.

For many of us, things have been shifting too fast to keep up. So here’s a smattering of fast facts:

White supremacists in America believe the white race is being victimized by an onslaught of immigration, directed conspiratorially by the Jews. They often espouse the view that only widespread violence can settle this with a white victory. A 2017 University of Alabama study estimated that this sector comprised about eleven million Americans.

Most white supremacist activity is not in public gatherings, but online—and it’s growth there is unprecedented. One study found that between 2014 and 2015, the number of likes given to tweets and comments produced by hate groups on Twitter more than tripled. Between 2015 and 2016, the likes associated with these comments more than tripled again. In just three years, the average number of likes on hateful or racist tweets from the groups studied rose from less than one, on average, to almost eight.

Online hate forums are similarly burgeoning. The attacks in Pittsburgh, New Zealand and Poway were perpetrated by denizens of white supremacist forums, where they proudly announced their intentions.

Anti-Semitism At Its Core

So what is the underlying cause of this particularly American strain of virulent anti-Semitism today? Let’s look past the immediate causes that have allowed it to fester so long and why it suddenly emerged from the depths in the last two years. There’s nothing there we can fix. What is it at its very core and essence?

The chilling truth is that this hatred is nothing less than a fundamental hatred for the other, that very human, egocentric notion that just by there being an other there is less space for “me and those like me.” Aka in Hebrew as sinat chinam—”I hate you just because you exist.”

What else could drive some eleven million white American males to believe the absurd conspiracy tales they guzzle down like aThis hatred is nothing less than a very human, egocentric notion that just by there being an other there is less space for “me and those like me.” cold beer on a hot day? They justify their vile hatred by framing themselves as the victim, “the endangered race.” What makes them endangered? That others, who look different than them, dare enter the white man’s land, work hard, live their lives and raise their families there. Unemployment in America continues to decline, the economy continues to soar against all odds, there is more prosperity than ever before in history, there’s a vast, open land before us, but there is no room for those who are different from us.

And it’s already become critically infectious. John T. Earnest, the mild-mannered 19-year-old nursing student and classical pianist who shot a sixty-year-old kind and gentle woman in Poway, Calif., and would have shot up a synagogue packed with worshippers if but for an inexplicable miracle—the kid doesn’t fit the profile of the he-man, working-class hate-monger.

“He’s the kid next door,” said Mark Kalish, a San Diego-based forensic psychiatrist. “That’s the scary part.”

A plague of intolerance like this doesn’t lash out at Jews alone. That’s where it becomes most evident, but with it, all “others” have become fair targets. Indeed, it is a first sign that an entire society is beginning to disintegrate.

Common hatred has never proven a long-term agent of bonding. Quite the opposite, it is a sign that society has lost its soul.


Anti-Semitism and American Ideals

The distinction in this case, as I’ve written elsewhere, is that we Jews, perhaps for the first time in history, are in a position to take on this deep-seated hatred at its core. Today, we are an integral, even critical, factor in the makeup of American society. Most Americans continue to like Jews, according to a 2017 Pew study, more than any other religious group in America. As such, we have the power to bring about major shifts in society for the good.

Which is precisely what’s needed today. Because anti-Semitism can only be defeated by targeting its very core: Intolerance and wanton hatred of the “other” in society. And that can only be accomplished byAnti-Semitism can only be defeated by making fundamental changes in the way our society functions, particularly its educational institutions. making fundamental changes in the way our society functions—particularly its educational institutions—so that the ideals upon which American society was originally meant to be structured are brought back to the fore, preserved and transmitted into the future.

This is one of the strongest points that the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, left us with: that a society that does not educate and inspire the next generation to carry on its core ideals is scripting its own demise. Everyone understands that truism when it comes to Jewish society and the prerogative of Jewish education. The Rebbe’s insight was to apply this to America as well.

Saving America

America, after all, was never just a country. It was originally founded and structured as an ideal. It’s that ideal that has provided the glue for a rapidly growing and changing, diverse population over a vast swath of territory for almost two and a half centuries. And, despite what you may have gathered, there is more to that ideal than independence, freedom and the rights of the individual.

There is the principle, stated in the preamble of America’s primal document, the Declaration of Independence, that “all people are created equal.” There is the original American motto, E Pluribus Unum—the notion that a wide diversity of humankind, all children of one Creator, can work together with a common goal of creating a better future. ThereUnfortunately, we can’t call for a return to the “good old days.” There weren’t any. It’s always been up to the people to bring the ideals into reality. was always an underlying notion that this is a nation that respects all human beings, with empathy, generosity, love and kindness, not because of their achievements, not because of their smarts, but out of a sense of the Imago Dei of every human being.

Unfortunately, we can’t call for a return to the “good old days.” There weren’t any. That’s why I call these ideals, not values. It’s always been up to the people to bring the ideals into reality.

And yes, they have been challenged many times before. They suffered a beating with the rationalization of black slavery in the 19th century, when even a civil war didn’t manage to ensconce them firmly. They were the ideals of the civil rights movement of the fifties and early sixties, perhaps the most successful movement of the 20th century—success that white supremacists today would roll back.

They’ve also had their original underpinnings weakened with centuries of rejection of religion and biblical values by an intellectual elite. Ripped out of their original theological water, these ideals can only breathe for so long. There has to be a sense of purpose to unite people so different from one another—the common pursuit of happiness doesn’t make the grade. There has to be a reason to believe that all people are equal—because science does not provide one. Take a look at the language of the white supremacists who consider anyone who does not think like them to be “less evolved” and therefore fair game for the shooting.

Combine all this with the influx of immigrants that began in the middle of the 19th century and a dramatic shift in the nation’s ethnic composition since WWII, and these ideals have met some extreme challenges. It’s to the credit of those ideals that America has achieved its success, but it’s also a miracle that memory of them remains.

Never Again Is In Our Hands

We can’t rely on miracles. Neither can we imagine that these values can be resuscitated in their original context and form. It’s up to us today to find new and creative frameworks by which we can inspire young minds to embrace the notion that there is more to a human being than a mechanism made of meat, there is more to life than beating the other guy on a corporate bid, there is more to this universe than you and your ego—there is purpose and divine meaning and therefore plenty of room and green bills for every other sacred human soul on the planet.

We need to become a society that educates and nurtures respect for all human beings, empathy, generosity, love and kindness; a society with a conscience, with an absolute frame of reference for our ethics and behavior.

Introducing a quiet moment for children to think for themselves in school is one place to start. Education, after all, is where everything starts.

But there’s more that we can all do. We all have our circle of influence—at the workplace, in the classroom, with our sports teams, with our clientele. The topics of creating a caring, responsible society, of the sacredness of each human life, and of the beauty and strength of human diversity—we need to work together to bring these to the foreground of today’s conversations.

Actual deeds make the message real. The moreThere’s a wealth of projects that will galvanize people towards good—and away from the opposite. people we can engage in projects for human good, the more we will uproot hatred. Every American should be a benefactor, but only about half actually give charity—and that percentage is on the decline (down by 20% in 50 years) . Many businesses today enable their employees to choose where corporate donations will go, or provide supplements earmarked for “the charity of your choice.” There’s a wealth of projects that will galvanize people towards good—and away from the opposite.

But do something. Jews are respected in America, and their voices are heard. “Never again” has never been so much in our hands.