Schumer Delivers Antisemitism Speech on Senate Floor: ‘A Crisis, a Five-Alarm Fire’

By Hamodia Staff

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. (Screenshot)

The rise of antisemitism in the United States and around the world is “a crisis — a five-alarm fire that must be extinguished,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday, in a speech on the Senate floor prompted by soaring antisemitic incidents since the Hamas-Israel war began last month.

Schumer, the highest-ranking Jewish elected official in American history, said that whereas for many “people of good will, [antisemitism] is merely a problem, a matter of concern,” he felt compelled to deliver this 40-minute speech to explain to the nation “why so many Jewish people see this problem as a crisis.”

Even though Jews represent just two percent of the U.S. population, they are targets of 55 percent of all religion-based hate crimes recorded by the FBI. This numbers skyrocketed after Hamas’ October 7 attacks on Israel, as the Anti-Defamation League says antisemitic incidents have increased nearly 300 percent since then, and there has been a 214-percent increase in New York City, home to the largest population of Jews of any city in the Diaspora.

While many people initially condemned Hamas’ attack, “the solidarity that Jewish Americans initially received from many of our fellow citizens was quickly drowned out by other voices,” which justified the attack “because of the actions of the Israeli government,” Schumer said. “A vicious, bloodcurdling, premeditated massacre of innocent men, women, children, the elderly – justified!”

And, the Senate Majority Leader noted, many of those who blamed Israel for the attack that killed some 1,200 of its own citizens were “people that most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers.” Many of these people had previously marched together with liberal Jews in support of other minority groups, Schumer said, “out of the recognition that injustice against one oppressed group is injustice against all.

“But apparently, in the eyes of some, that principle does not extend to the Jewish people.”

Schumer said that despite the myriad persecutions, expulsions, and massacres the Jewish people have suffered for millennia, “because some Jewish people have done well in America [and] because Israel has increased its power and territory,” some of those who view every struggle through the lens of oppressors vs. oppressed have put Jews into the former category.

“Antisemitic conspiracy theories often weaponize this very dynamic by pitting what successes the Jewish people have achieved against them, and against their fellow countrymen,” Schumer said. “But for many Jewish Americans, any strength and security that we enjoy always feels tenuous. No matter how well we’re doing, it can all be taken away in an instant.”

Describing his own family’s experiences in pre-war Europe, and how many of his ancestors and relatives were murdered in the Holocaust, Schumer said that the Nazis could only carry out their actions because during their rise to power, “many Germans of good will either stayed silent, or marched alongside them, not necessarily realizing what they were aiding and abetting.”

Jews around the world fear that a similar pattern may be emerging.

“While we are thankfully a far ways away from Nazi Germany today, this is why many Jewish people worry about the [anti-Israel] marches today, especially in Europe,” Schumer said. “What may begin as legitimate criticism of Israeli policy‌,‌ or even a valid debate over other religious, economic‌,‌ and political issues, can sometimes cross‌‌ into something darker, into attacking Jewish people simply for being Jewish.”

While many of the pro-Palestinian marchers “do not have any evil intent,” Schumer said, Jews are alarmed and appalled at hearing chants and seeing signs with slogans like, “From the river to the sea,” and “By Any Means Necessary.”

“And when we see many people and news organizations remain neutral about the basic absurdity of these claims and actions, we are deeply disappointed,” he said.

“More than anything, we are worried — quite naturally, given the twists and turns of history — about where these actions and sentiments could eventually lead.”

The result of recent events is that Jews feel alone, and that they live under a double standard,” Schumer said: “What is good for everybody, is never good for the Jew. When it comes time to assign blame for some problem, the Jew is always the first target.”

Schumer concluded by asking three things of his fellow Americans:

“First, learn the history of the Jewish people, who have been abandoned repeatedly by their fellow countrymen … with disastrous results.

“Second, reject the illogical and antisemitic double standard that is once again being applied to the plight of Jewish victims and hostages, to some of the actions of the Israeli government, and even to the very existence of a Jewish state.

“Third, understand why Jewish people defend Israel — not because we wish harm on Palestinians, but because we fear a world where Israel is forced to tolerate the existence of groups like Hamas that want to wipe out all Jewish people from the planet.”

Jewish groups and leaders praised Schumer’s speech.

“Thank you Sen. Schumer for bringing awareness to the alarming rise in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7,” the Orthodox Union tweeted. “We must continue working together to fight this trend.”

Rabbi Yeruchim Silber of Agudath Israel tweeted that the speech was “both moving and comprehensive,” and that Schumer showed “moral clarity on this painful subject.”

Bobov community leader Joel Rosenfeld told Hamodia, “Majority Leader Schumer is one of the most powerful people in the United States. His remarks accurately conveyed the feelings that all Jews are feeling — particularly visibly identifiable Orthodox Jews. It is our hope that he will be able to change the discourse in this country.”

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