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Friday, February 28, 2020

As we recoiled in horror upon hearing of yet another attack on American Jews in a Monsey shul this past motzei Shabbat Chanukah, with a machete this time no less, we were possibly even more shocked to see signs of dawning comprehension in the secular media.

This year, The Jewish Link and every other Jewish media outlet have reported more than ever on 1) grotesque violence against Jews in Brooklyn and Manhattan, 2) fatal synagogue shootings, 3) vandalism of synagogues and cemeteries everywhere and 4) Palestinian terrorism, BDS activism and the media’s justifications of it.

But it seems it took a machete-wielding, African-American fan of Hitler for CNN and The New York Times to wake up and decide that anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in a way that doesn’t fit their nice, neat media narrative. This violence simply does not come from a single source or ideology.

We pray that we will face no further attacks or loss of life.

Now, it’s time to meet these horrific lone wolf threats with a strong, united plan focusing on preventing such attacks before they happen. While we received more “thoughts and prayers” press releases and statements from politicians and organizations this week than usual, there was a different, refreshing tone to some of the missives. Like the Guardian Angels, who famously patrolled the streets of New York during the violent crime wave of the 1980s and are thankfully “back on the case” now on Brooklyn, some of these messages we received contained other like-minded great ideas and concrete action items.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center called on the president to create a special FBI task force to combat such violence. “Enough is enough! Jews should not have to fear for their lives in America to go to their houses of worship. The FBI must step up and take the lead in all recent violent hate crimes targeting religious Jews,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier and Rabbi Abraham Cooper in a joint statement.

Taking a completely different tack, a company called CitizenAID contacted us about an app and wall station they have developed, like heart defibrillators, that can be installed in synagogues, and in fact is already deployed in an Englewood synagogue. The app contains a training program and directives, and the wall stations, apparently, contain step-by-step instructions on how to treat a victim in the event of a shooting or violent act along with life-saving equipment. It aims to “educate and empower people to learn how to save lives between the time someone is wounded in an act of violence, and the time professional medical care arrives.”

In yet another development, a private security firm stepped up to patrol Monsey in a “menacing omnipresent” truck. “We’re volunteering a free service of armed officers... to help deter a reoccurrence’’ like the machete attack, Patrick Brosnan, CEO of Pearl River’s Brosnan Risk Consultants, said.

Last week’s too-close-to-home experience of a man shouting profanities at Jews in Sammy’s in Teaneck and trying to knock off mens’ kippot, is also a concrete lesson for us. While we understand none of the victims were seriously injured, we all must take a lesson here and take steps to sharpen our defenses and learn to protect ourselves in a very real way. Regardless of whether the police will or won’t charge a person with a bias act because of a mental disturbance, assault from such a person is still illegal. We must use all our resources to prevent our children from getting hurt.

We must plan to physically place ourselves between attackers and our children, and, like the hero in Monsey, chuck tables, chairs, anything we can find, at anyone who threatens us in our houses of worship or our stores. We cannot wait for the police. All of these attackers may or may not be “mentally disturbed,” which does nothing but propagate a dangerous and negative stigma, and regardless, mental illness does not give anyone license to touch us or hurt us.

We look forward to using the coming weeks as a repository for our collaborative plans for continuing education for our security teams, directives and assistance from our partners in law enforcement, our personal collective self-defense, and other great ideas as they develop. We invite your suggestions at [email protected]

We will not let this machete-attack in Monsey, following on the heels of the horrible fatal shootings in Jersey City, Pittsburgh and Poway, herald an era like Kristallnacht. Never again means never again.