The road from Pittsburgh to Poway: Why it's different now

The road from Pittsburgh to Poway: Why it's different now
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Ever since the FBI started compiling hate crime statistics in the 1990s, the main target of race-based hate in America has been African Americans and the No. 1 target of religion-based hate has been American Jews. Indeed, the statistics show a huge spike in anti-Jewish hate crimes over the past two years — 37 percent between 2016 and 2017. Jewish people and institutions account for 58.1 percent of religious-based hate crime incidents, according to the FBI data.

New York is home to the world’s largest Jewish community. But when it comes to hate crimes — including violent assaults — there was no safety in numbers. NYPD statistics confirm that the number of hate crimes against Jews in the Big Apple last year was more than double the total of reported hate attacks against all other groups combined. Jews were the target of 183 of the 352 hate crimes.

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Elsewhere, the numbers are even more alarming.

Hate crimes against Jews in Canada have spiked 60 percent, making them the most targeted minority group in the country for the second straight year, according to Statistics Canada.

In the United Kingdom, where the Labour Party is purging Jews from its ranks and is rife with anti-Semites, anti-Semitic attacks are at record levels — with a 34 percent spike in violent assaults against British Jews.

In Germany, violent attacks against Jews in Berlin soared a harrowing 155 percent this past year.

French Jews, already targets of Islamist and neo-Nazi hate, have had to deal with a new source of Jew-hatred from within the ranks of the Yellow Jacket movement.

Small wonder that 38 percent of Jews in Europe are considering leaving, according to a European Union survey. It also found that 89 percent of European Jews believe anti-Semitism has worsened in the past five years and that 85 percent believe anti-Semitism is the main problem in their country. 

With terrorists targeting synagogues in Paris, Rome, Copenhagen, Istanbul and Gothenburg, European Jews long have been used to having the outer perimeter of their houses of worship look like military base camps. Until the Pittsburgh massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue six months ago, American Jews wanted to believe it can’t happen here. But it has — and now a 19-year-old was on the verge of a New Zealand-style mass murder at a Chabad Synagogue in California, but for the fact that his gun jammed.

Still, we have buried today a beautiful 60-year-old woman who died trying to shield her rabbi from the deadly bullets.

Beyond the immediate grief and empathy, there are pressing lessons that must be derived from the shootings in Pittsburgh, Christchurch, Sri Lanka and Poway — and not only by Jews:

  • America has entered a new deadly era, where domestic lone-wolf terrorists have absorbed and are mimicking ISIS’s online marketing successes;
  • Our national political leaders, starting with President Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), in word and deed must consistently denounce anti-Semitism and racism from all quarters. Democrats and Republicans in Washington must stop weaponizing hate crimes and rediscover bipartisan action, at least in this one arena. They need to empower and fund law enforcement to be able to take a deep dive into the subculture of online hate to better track and interdict future threats from domestic terrorists.

  • In 2019, all houses of worship must take basic security measures.
  • Social media giants must desist from providing real-time live-streaming of such horrors. CBS, CNN and all other broadcast networks have a time delay. Facebook has confirmed that it removed 1.5 million postings of the New Zealand mosque massacres. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other platforms must deploy more human resources and additional technological tripwires to degrade the capabilities of hate mongers to lure young people into their fantasy world of imaginary enemies. This warning now extends to gaming, where we see signs that extremists are trolling wildly popular games looking for recruits.

It is ironic that as attendance in houses of worship has dropped sharply over the past two decades in America, our enemies — foreign and domestic — understand the critical role that religious freedom plays in our unique republic. Their goal is to create and sustain an atmosphere of fear so that families no longer feel safe going to their respective houses of worship, be it on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday. We dare not let them succeed in destroying a central pillar of our nation.

Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human rights organization named for the famed Nazi hunter and Holocaust survivor, and director of its Global Social Action programs. Follow on Twitter @simonwiesenthal.