Askanim Assess Progress in Fighting Anti-Semitism Wave

NEW YORK -

A week after the recent wave of anti-Semitic incidents hit a high point, the issue has garnered an increasingly strong response from public officials and law enforcement. Against the background of yet another round of bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers on Tuesday, all 100 members of the Senate released a public letter to the administration calling on the Justice Department and FBI to report to Congress on their plans to address the scourge.

It was only the latest of developments related to the phenomenon. Last Friday, Juan Thompson, a former journalist and anti-Trump and anti-white agitator, became the first to be arrested for the threats. He is accused of being responsible for at least eight of the nearly 100 calls which he allegedly made in an attempt to frame a personal adversary. That same day, in response to a request from Senate Majority leader Charles Schumer, the FCC granted a temporary waiver to JCCs that will make it easier for them to trace threatening calls, and FBI director James Comey met with representatives of the Jewish community to discuss progress in the case and security measures.

Governors Christie and Cuomo both held public events to speak out against the trend and pledged additional security funding to protect Jewish institutions. President Donald Trump, in the opening of his joint address to Congress, noted threats and cemetery vandalism, saying that the nation “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

Rabbi Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, executive vice president of Agudath Israel of America, welcomed the progress that has been made, but admitted that the public lacks the background information to measure the resources being committed to address the issue.

“I have no reason not to be satisfied with what has been done so far and I am very glad that the president addressed it in a very public forum, but I have no idea as to exactly what they are doing or whether they could be doing more,” he told Hamodia.

As for Mr. Thompson’s arrest, Rabbi Zwiebel said that while it was certainly a positive sign, it was unlikely to make a major impact on the general trend.

“I wish I could have breathed a sigh of relief when I heard about it, but I do not think this is the end. We still do not know a lot about what is behind these incidents, but it does not seem to be an isolated matter,” he said.

Maury Litwack, director of state political affairs for the Orthodox Union, was particularly pleased that both in New York and New Jersey condemnations and rallies of support from officials were accompanied by pledges of funds.

“I’m very happy that politicians realize that it’s not enough to make announcements, but that you have to put recourses and actions behind it,” he told Hamodia.

During the presidential campaign and in the months following the election of President Donald Trump, many media outlets harped on pointing out links between the president’s ascent and the rise of anti-Semitism, giving the issue a decidedly political overtone. Mr. Litwack expressed optimism that over the past week, approaches have become “more goal oriented.”

“Any politicization of anti-Semitism is a mistake. Hatred is hatred,” he said. “It’s important that our community not get caught up in the 24-hour news cycle. I’m happy concrete action has been taken, but it requires diligence on our part to see that it remains consistent over the long term. It’s easy to make a statement and then move on to the next issue.”