By Bob Blumenfield
Last week, two Jewish Angelenos were shot near places of worship. While the motives were not initially confirmed, it soon became all too clear. Once in custody the shooter admitted that he looked up kosher markets on Yelp and targeted victims by their ‘headgear.’ And it was no surprise that he had a long history of anti-semetic rhetoric. Anti-semitism is real, deadly, and horrifyingly common. More must be done to protect our Jewish community.
Sadly, this recent shooting spree is not an isolated incident against Jewish people. According to the Anti-Defamation League, there was a 27% spike in anti-semitic hate crimes from 2020 to 2021 in California; over the past five years, they’re up 40% across LA, Kern, San Bernardino and Riverside counties. In LA County alone, 75% of all religious based hate crimes are against the Jewish community. That’s outrageous.
As an elected official, I often meet with families when their loved ones are victims of crimes. I try to bring attention to communities when they have been attacked, via press conferences, town halls, or roundtable meetings. I’m sick and tired of all of it- getting a report from LAPD about an anti-semitic incident, an alleged hate crime, learning the details as they are confirmed, hearing the fear in the voices of survivors or their loved ones and then having to come to express the reality that there should be no place for hate in Los Angeles even though it obviously festers here. While tolerance of each other shouldn’t be an aspiration as it is a very low bar, sadly it is still an aspiration for many. Ideally, we can get to a point where we respect and value each other and truly embrace our rich diversity. The good news is that many Angelenos do indeed embrace each other or are on the path to doing so.
Anti-semitism is a deeply personal issue for me. Relatives of mine were persecuted and killed in the pogroms of eastern Europe, but the reality is that there isn’t a Jewish person on the planet who doesn’t have similar family lineage. Many of us, if we were lucky, grew up with older family members who told stories of the Holocaust or the pogroms and how our families lived and survived.
One of the scariest things that is often highlighted after the sort of anti-semitic events we saw last week, is how undereducated so many people, especially kids, are on the Holocaust and anti-Jewish history. According to a PEW Research poll, about 60% of teens don’t know that six million Jews perished in the Holocaust, and just one-third know that Hitler came to power through a democratic process. Only a few generations ago, nearly two out of three Jewish people in Europe were slaughtered by the Nazis and, as anti-Jewish sentiment continues to rise around the world, too many people aren’t properly educated in what happened during the Holocaust. And, don’t get me started about the misinformation regularly propagated about Israel. While criticism of Israel and its policies is legitimate and often warranted, too often it is used as a thin veneer to mask anti-Jewish hate.
Coming soon to the Reagan Presidential Library is the Auschwitz Special Exhibit, which brings together more than 700 original objects of great historic and human value and I encourage folks to visit and learn more about the survivors and lives that were lost. We must speak up whenever anyone seeks to demonize and blame certain groups for the ills of society. We must remember that the Holocaust did not happen overnight and we must never make the same mistakes that allowed this evil over a half century ago.