Kristallnacht in New Jersey?
While researching the three recent non-Bergen County sprees of crimes targeting Jews or featuring anti-Semitic graffiti – two of which turned out to be committed by Jews, with the other being investigated as insurance fraud -- I came across some rather hysterical reporting of the incidents.
Blogger Pamela Geller, for example, put the headline "Kristallnacht comes to America" on her report of car tourchings in Brooklyn -- fires that police now believe were set by the car owners to collect insurance money.
Here's her commentary:
"Welcome to America under siege by the leftists and Islamic supremacists."And here's how the author of Israel Survival Updates commented on "Kristallnacht In New Jersey" -- the smashing of store windows in Highland Park:
Tool up. That means go get some evil scary-looking guns, learn how to safely handle and use them and get ready, because “it can’t happen here” is happening here.I'm not going to try to dissuade people from their paranoia. But it is worth noting that equating smashed windows with Kristallnacht is missing the point of what took place in Nazi Germany.
The problem with Kristallanact was not that hooligans smashed windows. It was the power of the state was smashing windows and burning synagogues, and ordering the firefighters not to put out the blazes.
By contrast, look at how authorities responded to the recent apparently anti-Semitic crimes.
First of all, they were all investigated. The perpetrators were actively sought. And it was not only a police concern.
In Bergen County, elected officials stood with the prosecutor's office in denouncing the crimes and calling for their investigation.
There was no question that the authorities totally opposed attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions.
Contrast this with the reports from Berlin in 1935, which I happen to be reading about in Dara Horn's excellent “Kindle Single,” The Rescuer. Three years before Kristallnacht, and Storm Troopers were with impunity entering pubs and stabbing Jews and leading organized mobs who pulled Jews from their cars in Berlin and beat them to death. Hate wasn't a crime in Nazi Germany; it was a justification that made crimes legal.
But today, in New Jersey, a firebomb thrown at a synagogue isn't a reminder that Jewish life and property is up for grabs; it's an occasion for congressmen and nuns and Christian and Muslim clergy to join in solidarity with the Jewish community and sing Hebrew hymns.
That didn't happen after Kristallnacht.
That should be the real lesson of the attacks in Bergen County, even if they turn out to be committed by an avowed anti-Semite: It's not 1938. As Jews, we have far more friends in American than we do enemies.
There's one unanswerable question about the recent incidents whose Jewish perpetrators have been caught.
What is it that made two disturbed Jewish individuals – one in New Jersey, one in New York – act out their madness and anger and frustration through anti-Semitic slogans and actions?
Is our community's paranoia making our mentally disturbed members crazier?
Something to think about.
Next Post: Gershon Baskin on the Jordan negotiations
Previous Post: Of Jewish Book Month, Yeshivat He'atid, and Isaac Asimov