Opinion: Detroiters should condemn hateful anti-Semitism

Asher Lopatin

The bad news: Anti-Semitism is on the rise, in America and abroad. We are talking about violent anti-Semitism, as illustrated in the stories from New York and New Jersey that have blanketed the news these past weeks.

Shootings, slashings, beatings and humiliation in homes, markets and on the street. Anti-Semitic hatred is coming from all corners of the political and social spectrum. 

Recently, the American Jewish Committee’s (AJC) survey of American Jews found that many are not only fearful of anti-Semitism on their doorstep, but also are afraid of showing their Judaism outwardly, for example, by wearing a kippa, which is a head covering, or a necklace with a Jewish symbol.

(From left) David Grossman, owner of Pegasus Entertainment, lights a menorah made from ice with Rabbi Moishie Glitsenstein, of the Royal Oak Jewish Center Chabad during an outdoor Hanukkah celebration, in Royal Oak, December 29, 2019.

Some respondents also said they are sometimes afraid to attend a Jewish event which might put them in an uncomfortable, or even dangerous, situation.

This is unacceptable. This is not the America we know — a country which tolerates and respects diversity and individual choice. 

What can be done to fight this scourge of anti-Semitism, which is usually an indicator of a society that has lost its moral underpinnings, and hatred of the “other” in general? What can we do in Detroit to make sure that our city does not become a place of intolerance and hostility?

First, we need to recognize that we have a problem — we are losing our ability to disagree with civility and respect. We must demand of ourselves, of those around us and of our entire community, that anti-Semitism in all its forms, and hatred in all its forms, will not be tolerated. It is not who we are, and it's not who we want to be. 

It is important to call out hate speech and deeds. While we actively protect free speech, we must also condemn words that are hateful and designed to cause pain to others.

One must be allowed to distinguish between honest arguments and efforts to vilify a religion, political view or any belief that others have.

Second, we need to encourage everyone to be proud of who they are. We need to make sure that Jews can wear their head-coverings in pride and without fear, and that Muslims and Sikhs can dress as they feel their tradition tells them to, without worrying that some intolerant person will harass them.

Christians need to feel that they can worship in peace, and Jews who love the Jewish state need to know that their Zionism will be respected, regardless of someone’s politics.

Those of us who stand out, and I do by wearing a kippa, need to wrap ourselves in American and Detroit values, knowing that our country and city support and encourage us to be who we want to be because that makes us all stronger.

Finally, supportive alliances and partnerships are critical. All Jews should be confident that friends of other faiths are looking out for them, and that the people in their city and state are allies, not intimidators.

We must build deeper and more extensive relations with each other’s communities so that the message is loud and clear — we in America and Detroit care for each other, we protect each other and are there for each other, no matter our political or religious views.

All our leaders — political, religious and cultural — have to speak out, not only against anti-Semitism, but positively about respecting and defending those who differ from themselves.

Together — arm in arm — we will take on anti-Semitism and hate and ensure that our joyously diverse city and country shows no tolerance for intolerance toward any human being.

The Jewish Community Relations Council encourages Jews of all denominations, to participate in #JewishandProud Day this Monday. For more information visit www.ajc.org.

Rabbi Asher Lopatin is executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, based in Bloomfield Hills.