Gathering our allies in the aftermath of October 7th
On October 7, upon waking up and seeing the news of the horrific and brutal Hamas attack on Israeli civilians, my first text was to a contact with the LA Sheriff Department’s Hate Crimes Division. I texted the following message to the officer:
“Good morning. Sorry to bother you over the weekend, but I wanted to reach out and see if you can get the word out to the LA Sheriffs’ Departments in my community due to the situation that’s taking place in Israel. We have witnessed that when things occur in Israel, people tend to target the Jewish community. Even though this was an unprovoked attack, my concern is that our local synagogues may become targets. If you would, please ask the local stations to be on a heightened alert. We would greatly appreciate it.”
You see, every time Israel is involved in anything that can be perceived as doing something wrong or controversial, shortly after, there are reports of increased attacks (i.e., verbal, virtual, and physical) on Jews, Jewish institutions, etc. And being that this is the largest situation we have seen for quite a while, I was, and continue to be, concerned about the impact locally. While the work we have done with the city leadership in the area we cover to combat antisemitism, and all forms of hate (28 cities have adopted resolutions, issued proclamations, or similar actions as of the writing of this article) is helpful, the area that I am most concerned right now is on the college campuses.
With people jumping to conclusions, as we saw following the Gazan hospital that was hit by a rocket, our Jewish students and faculty continue to be confronted by anti-Israel sentiment on their campuses. Student groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and others have led protests, walk-outs, and demonstrations with vitriol remarks and spouted misinformation and distorting the facts of the current situation. In addition, Jewish students are being verbally attacked and are being forced to defend Israel’s actions, and the vast majority of the Jewish world’s support for Israel and its right to defend itself.
As I write this column, an article headline popped up online stating that Hillels across the county are starting to feel they need to hire security guards for their events. It was bad enough that synagogues have had to hire armed security guards, but now Jewish groups on college campuses. Name another group that has had to put billboards up like the pink ones produced by JewBelong, drawing attention to this situation. So, students are being confronted on campus, and because of the climate on their campus and around the country, they cannot even go to the one place where they should feel safe without being reminded of their need for protection.
Sadly, I strongly feel that we haven’t even begun seeing the worst things. The longer this war draws out, and the more innocent lives are unfortunately lost, the more animosity towards Jews because the perception is that Jews and Israel are synonymous with one another will continue to exist. This is why we must continue to correct misinformation and ensure that people understand that Israel’s fight is with Hamas in response to the brutal attack they carried out on Israeli civilians and not against the Palestinians. This message needs to continue spreading and gather allies who can share it. The more allies we can collect, the better.
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.