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Why is it that so much of the deep-seated disdain for Jews, masquerading as hatred for Israel, is nurtured in the labs of nonprofit institutions?

George Washington, in his inspired and defining 1790 letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, assured the “Children of the Stock of Abraham,” now also citizens of this new nation, that they should expect the enjoyment of “the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

Some 234 years later, the cover of the February, 2024, issue of Commentary, America’s premier journal of Jewish thought, addresses what many “other Inhabitants” are foisting upon American Jews, and carries the solitary headline: “They’re Coming After Us.”

The nones have been replaced by the many, and they are making Americans very afraid.

These are deeply troubling times for American Jews. The Stock of Abraham finds itself intentionally targeted, the recipient of unrelenting intimidation and hostility, not only from protestors and zealots—their fury unleashed on the roads and bridges of most major cities, a mob response to Israel’s war against Hamas (the violence included the swastika-defacement of numerous synagogues, the murder of peaceful pro-Israeli protestor Paul Kessler, and much more)—but from nonprofit institutions, including the country’s premier universities.

Which just so happen to have been the beneficiaries of significant American Jewish philanthropy—thus proving, again, the veracity of the old adage that no favors go unpunished.

In Commentary editor John Podhoretz’s powerful essay—penned in the aftermath of the brutal October 7 Hamas murder spree in Israel and the staggering, competing responses, which elicited shock and sympathies for Israel, and for the families of the murdered and kidnapped, drowned out by academy elites who took the massacres as an opportunity to attack . . . Israel (a New York Post headline from two days after Hamas’s invasion: Thirty-one Harvard organizations blame Israel for Hamas attack)—the extent of the documented madness directed at Israel and at American Jews, from actual hostility to the shocking failure of three Ivy League college presidents to condemn campus antisemitism, cascades like an avalanche. One cannot read the piece without asking: What does this say about the soul of America?

Nor can one avoid being troubled by the essay’s conclusion:

Put simply: Since October 7, Jews in America have found themselves targeted on college campuses, at the businesses they own and work at, at the shuls in which they pray, and in their homes and on the streets in a national onslaught that has no precedent in American history or American life.

They’re coming after us.

Are they? It sure seems so. The post-October evidence, collected by the Anti-Defamation League, shows a surge in the persecution of Jews in America. An ADL report from mid-December—documenting the two months following the October 7th Hamas attacks—found

a total of 2,031 antisemitic incidents, up from 465 incidents during the same period in 2022, representing a 337-percent increase year-over-year. This includes 40 incidents of physical assault, 337 incidents of vandalism, 749 incidents of verbal or written harassment and 905 rallies including antisemitic rhetoric, expressions of support for terrorism against the state of Israel and/or anti-Zionism. On average, over the last 61 days, Jews in America experienced nearly 34 antisemitic incidents per day.

(The types and locations of belligerence prove disturbing. For example, The College Fix reports on a recent girl’s high-school basketball game where a private Jewish school’s team had to be escorted off the court after the girls—teenagers—from the other team, a Yonkers, NY, public school, yelled, “I support Hamas, you f---ing Jew!”)

Much of the attention to the rise in antisemitism focuses on the quads, classrooms, and dorms of American colleges—places once known for “safe spaces.” A recent ADL study on Campus Antisemitism found dramatic spikes in intimidation of Jews and variations of displayed antisemitism: “73% of Jewish college students surveyed have experienced or witnessed some form of antisemitism since the beginning of the 2023-2024 school year alone.”

The unbridled antisemitism has led to the self-suppression of identity—"Since October 7th, students who have felt comfortable with others knowing they’re Jewish decreased significantly. 63.7% of Jewish students pre-October 7th felt ‘very’ or ‘extremely’ comfortable but now only 38.6% feel the same.”

As for free speech by American Jews, the Miranda right to remain silent seems now to be competing with the First Amendment:

Nearly a third (31.9%) of Jewish students indicated that they have felt unable to speak out about campus antisemitism, while only 17.6% of non-Jewish students felt the same. 29.8% of Jewish students said that they would be uncomfortable with others on campus knowing about their views of Israel, compared to only 13.9% of non-Jewish students. After 10/7, these numbers increased to 38.3% and 18.9%, respectively.

And you don’t have to be Jewish to be a recipient of campus antisemitism. The ADL study found, “Of the non-Jewish students erroneously assumed to be Jewish, nearly half (46%) stated that they had been targeted based on their assumed Jewishness.”

Antisemitism applies too to progressive, leftist—and unwitting—Jewish academics, even those who self-define as pro-Palestinian, as critics of Israel’s government, and as advocates of “two-state solutions.” In Tablet Magazine, Columbia University professor Shai Davidai and his wife, Yardenne Greenspan, render an eye-opening account of intimate academia shunning resulting from their condemning Hamas’s October 7th brutality:

We failed to realize that for many in our “progressive” circle, being a liberal Israeli just wasn’t good enough. If we had kept quiet, they might have been willing to accept us as equals. If we apologized for Israel’s existence, they might have even given us some extra points. But exposing Hamas’ atrocities and the support it was gaining among young Americans? Naming the kidnapped children and begging the world to help bring them home? Giving voice to the Israeli victims of mass rape by Hamas terrorists? For our friends, our refusal to apologize for Israel’s existence simply deemed us intolerable. Their minds were already made up. They wouldn’t even let us plead our case.

It took us a while to understand it, but once we did everything started making sense: Our friends did not have a problem with our politics, they had a problem with our identity. Our friends were willing to overlook the fact that we were Jewish Israelis, but only so long as we shut up about it. For many in our “enlightened” circle, our ethnic and national identity was an unfortunate accident, something to apologize for rather than take pride in. We failed to realize that for many, our people’s continued existence was not a high priority.

When did Shut up, Jew become so acceptable in the halls of learning?

Meanwhile, in the development offices at these same institutions, Pony up, Jewish Philanthropist has been the objective of many an elite university fundraiser—this despite the ample pre-October 7th manifestations of elite schools harboring bigots. An example: Last August, as the fall semester commenced, Jewish Journal wondered, “Has Princeton Returned To Its Antisemitic Roots?,” reporting on various signs of the esteemed institution’s creeping return to the infamous “quota” days when Ivy League schools intentionally limited admissions of Jews.

October 7th has snapped the relationships between the elite schools and their generous donors. Opines Haaretz, “The Beautiful Friendship Between Jews and the Ivy League Is Over.” Stories abound of major university donors, especially Jewish philanthropists, most notably Harvard alumnus Bill Ackman, dropping or withholding their support of the schools over campus antisemitism and the poor responses to it by school administrators.

Many are heartened by this demonstrative pushback by philanthropists, but some may wonder: Why did it take this long? Were not these very institutions, for years and decades, breeding grounds for the ideology that boldly expressed itself, full force, even while Israeli homes were still smoldering from the savage attacks of that terrible October morning?

As John Podhoretz made clear in his Commentary analysis, the ferocity that has been unleashed upon American Jews is something that has been years in the making, largely incubating in the academy:

Several seemingly unconnected arguments and controversies in the United States that had been carefully cultivated over the past couple of decades sprang into full flower on October 8 and thereafter. The weapons were ideas that had flowed for a quarter century from university graduate programs to activist groups to K–12 education and then began to reach millions through online mailing lists, listservs, and social-media entertainment services.

These have, over time, included, but are not limited to:

    • Efforts to make university endowments and other funds disinvest, boycott, and sanction Israeli companies;
    • The adoption of “intersectionality” arguments at all educational levels, featuring the claim that Jews are part of a white oppressor class rather than a tiny and historically oppressed minority;
    • Assertions that Palestinians are the indigenous peoples of an area on the globe that has literally been called Judea for 2,000 years (as well as other adjacent areas where Jews have been unceasingly resident since before the birth of Christ);
    • The slow but steady journey from the slanderous accusation that Israel is an apartheid state to the reverse-Nazi notion that Israel is a genocidal state (with the people whose genocide it is plotting growing in number by the year);
    • The mass adoption of the slogan “from the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”—a call for Israel’s destruction—among people who have no idea where Israel is, what river is being referred to, and on what sea Israel has its western border.

The “us” that are being come after include . . . us. All of us, who must temper alarm with the duty to keep the promise Washington made to the Rhode Island congregation, of safety and happiness, and to protect the vision the president expressed for America earlier in that missive, of a United States “which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Is everything new again? Indeed. Not just old bigotries, especially those so burdening the Stock of Abraham for millennia, but new too are—or should be—calls to honor and action against the mounting outrages that afflict, intimidate, harm, and belittle American Jews. And the nation itself.

For inspiration’s sake, maybe it is best to turn again to the man from Mount Vernon, for a reminder of our obligation as Americans to see that no one is molested because of race or faith. A year after he took command of America’s fledgling army, on July 2, 1776, then-General George Washington issued profound General Orders, which are as relevant now as they were on that fateful day:

The time is now near at hand which must probably determine, whether Americans are to be, Freemen, or Slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own; whether their Houses, and Farms, are to be pillaged and destroyed, and they consigned to a State of Wretchedness from which no human efforts will probably deliver them.

How . . . prescient.

1 thought on ““None to Make Him Afraid”: America’s Central Promise Broken by Antisemitism Run Amok”

  1. LynnAnne Eddington says:

    Those who don’t understand the horrific happenings of October 7, don’t want to know or understand. This country, America, that I grew up in seems to no longer exist. I feel I should be ashamed and that makes me very, very sad. When we were first married our neighbors who we also deemed as friends lived across the street, were Jewish. I can’t help but wonder how they, or worse yet their children are faring. Their oldest child and our youngest were born just months apart. It seems country has forgotten history. How could that happen? Oh yes! I forgot, History is no longer taught in schools. But, what about my peers and those who are older? The holocaust seems to have faded into obscurity. And I can’t help but ask, Where is Steven Spielberg?

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