Opinion: Intolerance lies below the surface in America

Dawud Walid and Alana Alpert

As faith leaders within our respective communities, we have found ourselves reaching out across lines of difference more and more in these trying times. We are worried for the safety of our people, and we are worried for the soul of this country. This week we witnessed American-on-American violence which our nation has not seen in this generation, and it is all too clear who is to blame.   

A white supremacist sent pipe bombs to homes and offices of individuals and institutions who are frequent targets of the bombast of President Trump, one of them being Jewish-American philanthropist George Soros. At the same time, an extremist in Kentucky murdered two African-Americans inside a grocery store after a failed armed entry into a black church nearby. The same week culminated in terror when another white supremacist killed 11 Jewish-Americans during a sabbath service in a Pittsburgh synagogue; he yelled “All Jews must die” when he committed this heinous act. 

The recent attack on the synagogue shows us that hatred of Jewish people in America is not part of a horrid past that disappeared.  In fact, the anti-Semitism lies below the surface in America. Americans of conscience must raise their voices against the increased hate directed towards Jewish people — the attack in Pittsburgh is the most singular bloody event against Jews in our country’s history.

Protesters demonstrate near Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue where President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump were visiting a memorial in Pittsburgh on Tuesday. The Trumps came to Pittsburgh to honor the victims of a mass shooting at the synagogue on Saturday.

The pipe bomb sent to Soros and the attack in Pittsburgh should not be viewed as anti-Semitism in isolation. Whether referring to Latinx migrants as marauding disease-ridden gangs mixed with “unknown Middle Easterners,” calling unarmed Black Lives Matter activists extremists, the self-proclaimed nationalist in the White House has emboldened white supremacists and xenophobes.

The loathing that white nationalists feel for black and brown people as well as Muslims and Sikhs is intimately connected to the upsurge in hatred against Jewish Americans — none of us are white enough for white supremacy.

Those who call themselves conservatives that do not subscribe to Trump’s nationalist agenda must put country before party and provide a different narrative within the political discourse of the Right. That, of course, means challenging the rhetoric of the president which pits some Americans against others.

This violence will only succeed in bringing our communities closer together and deeper into the fight for a just society.

Dawud Walid is the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations . 

Rabbi Alana Alpert directs Detroit Jews for Justice and serves Congregation T'chiyah.