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Sutton Place Synagogue: The bloody beast is back
The Sutton Place Synagogue is where my son's family prays and studies. But I have been uneasy for a long time.
by Phyllis Chesler
Several days ago, the Sutton Place Synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side was defaced by a swastika. My son and daughter-in-law are members of this congregation. My granddaughters attend Hebrew School there.
The bloody beast is back. I can smell it’s breath. But, for me, that’s been the case for a long time now.
In 2003, perhaps early in 2004, I delivered a lecture at this very shul about the rise in anti-Semitism, a subject that had consumed me since Arafat’s Intifada of 2000. Former rabbi Allen Schranz (z”l) was very supportive and I actually joined the synagogue for a while but could not stay because it was not near where I live. The current rabbi, Rachel Ain, has been very gracious and compassionate toward my children and grand-children.
This is getting more personal. But it always has been.
I published my first book on the subject of anti-Semitism in 2003 and took heat for what I wrote. My own editor quarreled with me about whether anti-Zionism was, indeed, anti-Semitism; I kept assuring him that it was. Many Jews pooh-poohed what I was saying, mocked me as a “Jewish Cassandra,” or as such a new-kid-on-the-block, that I had to trust those “in the business,” who understood more than I did. Perhaps so—but I am not talking about scholars in this area, only about the heads of Jewish organizations who knew how to keep themselves in business and who honestly believed that while Jew-hatred was once terrible, it had since all but disappeared.
Most media did not review this work. This was a first for me. Some reviewers said I had exaggerated the facts or that although I had a point, I had not documented my case carefully enough.
This last critique may have been true. I wrote the book in white heat, almost around the clock, and did not think of myself as any kind of specialist. I was not part of the organized Jewish world. I was not planning to make a career of writing or speaking about this subject. I was merely one more Jew who had taken a stand in history and shared what I knew in my bones.
As my colleague Richard Landes once said at a conference on the subject when he had to quickly end his remarks: “Look, they are coming to shecht (slaughter) us. We have to act.”
As I saw it, while this “new” anti-Semitism was not entirely new, it now had the biggest megaphone it had ever had—via movies, videos, and the internet—and it was not only coming to us from a fundamentalist Islamic world; no, now, left-wing, Western anti-racists, progressives, our intelligentsia, our “best and our brightest,” were functioning as the advance guard for the storm troopers.
Holding Western progressives responsible for betraying the Jews yet again was a Thought Crime. Naming Islamic Jew-hatred for what it is was another Thought Crime.
In my limited experience, in the United States, such graffiti can be the work of a delinquent teenager, a mentally ill Jew, a brainwashed individual, usually a man or two men—and they can hail from the left or from the right.
Last year, a group of Hindus approached me to write a letter begging for mercy before sentencing on behalf of an 18 year-old Catholic boy and an 18-year old Hindu boy whose parents believed they had been “brainwashed by a cult.” (I never did learn which cult it was, exactly). Together, they had defaced several synagogues and had fire-bombed a rabbi’s home, attached to the synagogue. Luckily, no one was hurt but the worst could have happened. Although some of the Jewish communities involved wanted no leniency, I did write for mercy as requested. These young men had already spent six years in solitary. This is torture enough.
However, in Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, India, the Far East, and Africa, when Muslim mobs filled with righteous infidel hatred riot against Jewish or Christian houses of worship, and against any living infidels, mighty conflagrations ensue, the death count mounts.
This is undeniable, is it not? If not, why is this so denied, no underplayed, so accepted as a “given?”
I am uneasy. I have been uneasy since Arab Palestinian terrorists began hijacking planes, bombing synagogues all over Europe, massacring young Israeli athletes. I have been uneasy since Arab Palestinians turned themselves into human bombs to blow up Jews (and the wrong kind of Muslims, and women and children).
Isn’t it time for others to become uneasy too?
First published in INN.