The responsibility is on each of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, to find ways to stamp out hatred, change course and bridge what divides our nation. by the Forward

Attacks on Jewish community threaten our most basic democratic values

“May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree. And there shall be none to make him afraid.”

These words are taken from a letter President George Washington wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island on August 21, 1790.

Two hundred and thirty years later, we rightly question how safe we truly are under our respective vines and fig trees.

Opinion | Attacks on Jewish community threaten our most basic democratic values

Over the past few years, the horrific forces of anti-Semitism are not only affecting our nation, but are also on the rise across the globe, and must be unequivocally denounced.

Since 2018 alone, we have seen acts of brutality committed against our Jewish friends and family in Pittsburgh, Poway, Jersey City, New York City, and Monsey. With the 10 attacks over Hanukkah, we can now say that the current violence aimed at Jewish communities throughout the United States is the worst this country has ever witnessed.

Anti-Semitism and racism have always held currency in certain malign groups in our country — this has remained true even though we commit ourselves to all that is meant by “Never Again,” and to lifting each other up in a combined effort to defeat ignorance and hatred wherever and whenever we may find them working their insidious effects on our fellow citizens.

Let us be clear: Attacks on synagogues, in the streets of New York, at a Rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, and thousands of other acts of anti-Semitism we have recently witnessed are attacks not just on those who are visibly Jewish, but on all Americans who rightly value the free exercise of religion. And for this reason, anti-Semitism is not simply a “Jewish problem,” but a problem that tears at the very fabric of our democracy.

We must challenge this vile hatred through individual actions and collective unity. The responsibility is on each of us, Jews and non-Jews alike, to find ways to stamp out hatred, change course and bridge what divides our nation.

It’s why we jointly created the From Sinai to Selma initiative, to enhance the historically powerful alliance between the black and Jewish communities. In the new year, we must recommit to this effort because the dual scourge of racism and anti-Semitism can only be defeated by standing together, in solidarity with one another.

Opinion | Attacks on Jewish community threaten our most basic democratic values

Let us never forget that our strength is found in our diversity, we are a country of many beliefs, faiths, backgrounds, religions, and politics. It is this fact, coupled with the fact that over time more Americans have supported rather than opposed President Washington’s vision of safe vines and fig trees for all faiths, that has made America a beacon of hope and strength for millions of people around the world.

It falls upon all of us to strive for the democratic ideal of “a more perfect union” by strengthening our founding values, including freedom of religion. We must unequivocally denounce anti-Semitism, and remember that there is no place in our sacred democracy for hatred in any form.

Congressman Alcee L. Hastings serves as Vice-Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, and Dean and Co-Chairman of the Florida Delegation.

Michael Balaban is President/CEO of the Jewish Federation of Broward County.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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