On Monday evening, February 10, Mark Weitzman of the Simon Wiesenthal Center addressed the Highland Park community on “Anti-Semitism: The Evil in Our Midst.”
Mark Weitzman is the director of government affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Center and is a member of the official U.S. delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Authority (IHRA) where he chairs the Committee on Anti-Semitism and Holocaust Denial. He has been called the “architect” of the internationally recognized “Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.”
He addressed the rising threats of anti-Semitism around the world as well as in Highland Park.
The program opened with a letter from the mayor of Jersey City, Mayor Steven Fulop, a former resident of the Edison/Highland Park community. Jersey City was the scene of a recent anti-Semitic attack on a kosher grocery store where several Jews were murdered.
I was both encouraged and depressed by this event.
It was encouraging to see the synagogue packed with concerned community members together with the Highland Park Council as well as other politicians. It showed that the community is very concerned.
However, I was depressed with the message from one of the leading experts on anti-Semitism, Mark Weitzman, who spoke eloquently on the meteoric rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and Europe. He believes that what is happening in the U.S. has no parallel to what happened in Germany in the 1920s. He talked about the importance of education, especially in the black community. But to me it was clear there was no obvious solution to this blight on humanity. And while I agree and I do not expect to see concentration camps in the U.S., I do see anti-Semitism growing rapidly with no real plan to combat it.
We see the effects of anti-Semitism all around us. We are being instructed how to walk on the street and what we should wear to disguise our Jewishness. Our children are making decisions on college based on where it is safe to be outwardly Jewish. Our shuls, yeshivas and Jewish centers are becoming secure prisons. We can no longer be protected by living in strong Jewish communities like Monsey, Lakewood, Highland Park, Williamsburg, Borough Park, Pittsburgh, Jersey City, etc.
It is time for our leaders and rabbis to speak out and let their constituents know that the extreme right and left are having a larger and larger impact on the silent middle. We see that nationally, when Congress was unable to pass a strong statement against anti-Semitism, and we see it locally, in Highland Park, a very “Jewish” town, where the mayor and the council were unable to pass a statement against BDS.
We are not welcome in the U.S. like we were a decade ago.
I think the most important statement made at the gathering was by one of the organizers, who said that after 2,000 years, Jews coming to the U.S. thought they had finally found a place that would end their wandering. But unfortunately, it looks like we need to start wandering again.
The difference is we now have Israel to end our wandering. It is time for our rabbis to recognize that what is happening today in the U.S. is a sign from Hashem that we do not belong here, or in England, France, Germany, etc. The only place we will find refuge and peace is the State of Israel.Paul D. Bloom
CEO, PDB FutureCom International (PFI)
Board of Directors, New York Israel Chamber of Commerce