By Samantha Milewicz
Picture this: It is Saturday morning, the day of rest. You have just arrived at synagogue, and you take your seat in the middle section of the sanctuary. As you rise before the ark is opened, you hear someone bust through the doors. Everyone turns their heads in shock. You see a middle aged man holding multiple guns, yelling anti-Semitic slurs such as “Jews are the children of Satan” and “Jews are the enemy of white people”. Then, a shot is fired. You turn your head to the left and see a lady fall. Another shot, another body on the ground. You flee in terror, unsure if the rest of your family is following you, or if they are the victims of another bullet.
This was exactly the scene at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. On October 27, 2018, Robert Bowers open fired on the Tree of Life congregation, leaving 11 dead and many more injured, both physically and mentally. Sadly, this is just one of many anti-Semitic attacks that have recently been on the rise across the United States.
In Los Angeles, California, from January to October of 2018, there were a total of 29 anti-Semitic hate crimes committed. In the same period of time in 2019, there were double that amount. Additionally, New York City’s Jewish Community experienced a total of 229 anti-Semitic attacks, a 24% increase from 2018.
On Yom Kippur, Wednesday October 8, 2019, the Holocaust Garden of Remembrance in our own backyard of White Plains was vandalized with posters written with anti-Semitic slurs and spray painted with swastikas. This was an intentional act of particular hatred, as it took place on the holiest day of the year for Jews, the day of atonement.
Now, the question is what can we do to stop these acts of violence and hate? On January 5, 2020, tens of thousands of people gathered to fight against anti-Semitism, marching from Foley Square across the Brooklyn Bridge into Cadman Plaza Park. Additionally, the pro-Israel organization Stand With Us has started a social media campaign, which has gained 150,000 followers since it started in 2013 and currently gives daily updates about Israeli accomplishments as well as recent anti-Semitic attacks. In addition, recently at Byram Hills, the Fighting Against Anti-Semitism (FAAS) club was formed, with the main goal of raising awareness in Byram Hills as well as the surrounding community about anti-Semitic attacks.
These attacks, these shootings, these beatings, these stabbings do not only affect the Jewish community. The effects of the recent anti-Semitic attacks are not limited to the Jewish community; No matter your religion – Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or even Atheist, these attacks are affecting your emotions and your overall life. At the end of the day, every time a Jew is punched, threatened, and shot, the reverberations are far greater than the surrounding community.