By Gabe Groisman (Mayor of Bal Harbor, Florida)
*This op-ed was previously published in Israel National News
The days since the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh have continued to be challenging for Jews around the world. The attack was a realization of fears that many of us have had for quite some time. We have seen these sort of heinous attacks against Jews in Europe, in South America, and of course in Israel. Each one of those hurt. But, having an attack in our own country – the country my parents emigrated to for safety and prosperity; the country which has always been the place people from all over the world have come to seeking security and freedom has shocked me and the American Jewish community in a different manner.
A few days since the attack have now passed, and two things have begun to come into focus as a result.
First, the attack has finally placed the world’s focus on the meteoric rise in Antisemitism that we have been experiencing for the past decade in the United States and abroad.
Most think this wave of Antisemitism started in the past year and a half or so, under President Trump. While it certainly has continued to grow during this time period, the rise of Antisemitism has been well-documented and relatively consistent throughout the United States over the last 6 to 10 years.
For instance, in June 2016 I wrote an article which was published on the front page of the Huffington Post, titled, “Anti-Semitism is Back. Will you Stand By or Stand up?”
In the article, I quoted the most recent statistics of the time – like the fact that anti-Semitic discourse on the Internet had risen 114% between 2014 and 2015. And, that in 2015 the FBI had reported that the majority of anti-religious hate crimes in the US were perpetrated against Jews. But Antisemitism hasn’t slowed down since then. In fact, it continues to grow and fester. We see it from the political left and from the political right.
We must put aside our political differences and stand up to Antisemitism when it rises, despite from where it arises.
The second thing that the Pittsburgh attack has highlighted is how very divided the Jewish community is on so many issues. Whether on political, religious, or social grounds, there is great division in the Jewish community. Of course, this is reflective of the polarization we see in society at large, however for our small community, it is unacceptable.
Because the rise of Antisemitism will certainly not stop with Pittsburgh, the Jewish people simply cannot afford to be divided. In fact, the Jewish community must unite – not just this week, not just at a vigil, not just in the face of a tragedy, but moving forward. We can disagree on issues – that is in our DNA. But, we have to treat each-other with respect, and continue to strengthen and finally unify the Jewish community worldwide.
Remember, with over 60% of American Jews being entirely apathetic to their Judaism, the responsibility that we each hold is all the more heightened.
The perpetrator in Pittsburgh screamed “ALL JEWS MUST DIE!” He distinguished not between Republican Jews, Democratic Jews, Orthodox Jews, Likud members or Labour members. Those who hate us, hate all of us. That has always been the case. Whether in Nazi Germany, at the AMIA bombing in Argentina, the attack of the Jewish school in Toulouse France, the rockets from Gaza, or the countless suicide vests that have detonated. In all of those cases, the intent of the perpetrator was to kill Jews. Any Jews. Those who seek to destroy us, seek to destroy all of us.
I have a message to Mr. Robert Bowers – the person who murdered 11 of our own while screaming “All Jews Must Die.”:
As you may be beginning to realize from the Jewish nurses and doctors who are taking care of you at the hospital, while your life will surely end up tied to a cold metal table with a needle in your arm – being killed by lethal injection by the State of Pennsylvania, we, the Jewish people, will continue to live, and thrive, and be a positive force in the world.
Of course, there is certainly a fear that we all collectively and individually feel after one of these tragedies, and this fear is natural. But, we must quickly overcome that fear, emerge stronger, and all be able to proudly say what Menachem Begin z”lb said when he stood before US Congress in 1982 while being pressured to make concessions that he deemed to be dangerous to the existence of the Jewish people and the Jewish State. We must be able to say his words firmly and proudly:
I am not a Jew with trembling knees.
I am a proud Jew.
I come from 3700 years of civilized history.
No one came to our aid for years while we were being burned in ovens by the Nazis.
No one came to our aid when we were striving to create our country.
We paid for it.
We fought for it.
We died for it.
We will stand by our principles.
We will defend them.
Despite the attack in Pittsburgh we must remember, and remind those around us – in our community and outside our community, that there has never been a time in history that the Jewish people have been stronger than today. We must continue to build upon that strength, We must focus on Jewish unity and Jewish pride. And, we must continue to fight against Antisemitism wherever and whenever it may rear its ugly head.
Gabriel Groisman is a lawyer, writer, speaker, and the Mayor of Bal Harbour, Florida. Mayor Groisman is active in the community on various fronts, including speaking regularly to groups about fighting anti-semitism and the anti-Israel boycott movement (“BDS”). Mayor Groisman wrote and passed the nation’s first municipal anti-BDS ordinance in December 2015, and was the first in the nation to codify a uniform definition of anti-Semitism in December 2017. Mayor Groisman’s groundbreaking ordinances continue to spread across the country. In 2016, Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, invited Mayor Groisman to speak at two conferences hosted at the UN to discuss his efforts in fighting the BDS movement. Mayor Groisman also shared his vision for fighting modern day anti-Semitism at an international summit hosted by the Italian Parliament in Rome in 2017. In February 2018, Mayor Groisman delivered the keynote address about the rise of anti-Semitism through Israeli delegitimization efforts to the International Lawyers Conference on Combatting Delegitimization in Jerusalem at the invitation of MK Gilad Erdan. Mayor Groisman is a sought after speaker, publishes op-ed pieces regularly on different platforms, and has been a guest on various national television and radio programs, aiming to keep issues affecting the Jewish and pro-Israel community in the forefront of the national conversation. In his private life, Gabriel Groisman is the founder of Groisman Law, PLLC a boutique law firm where he focuses on trademark law, anti-corruption, and commercial litigation. He is a member of the national board of the Friends of the IDF. And, he and his wife Lisa are raising their four beautiful daughters.