Explainer: What's happening with the anti-Semitism in New York?

A few months ago, the NYPD announced that from Jan. 1 through May 19, 2019, there have been 184 reported hate crimes, an 83% increase compared to the same time period last year. Of the hate crimes reported, 103 (59%) of them were anti-Semitic in nature, more than double the number of reported anti-Semitic hate crimes for the same period last year. This is despite a 6% reduction in overall crime.  

The summer has continued this disturbing pattern. Recently, 63-year-old Rabbi Abraham Gopin was seriously injured after being attacked with a large paving stone. A few weeks ago, three Hasidic Jews in the same community were attacked within the span of an hour. In addition, just within the last few weeks, another Jewish man was beaten in the face with a belt, a Jewish delivery driver was attacked with a rock, and the New York Times just reported that a beach club was vandalized with graffiti of swastikas and the words "gas chamber."   

This is just the tip of the iceberg. A survey of reported incidents at stopantisemitism.org show several events similar to the ones mentioned above. A large portion of these reported incidents are centered in New York.  

New York Mayor Bill Deblasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have both announced efforts to either increase personnel or money devoted to fighting hate crimes.  

Why the increase in anti-Semitism?  

No one is quite sure as to why there's been an increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes the last several months. As the Wall Street Journal reported  

"Experts disagree on the reasons behind the rise in crimes, but NYPD Chief of Detectives Dermot Shea said at a news conference earlier this month that many individuals arrested for hate crimes have previously committed similar acts. Other data reported by the NYPD show that arrests for hate crimes are rising even faster than complaints, as police aggressively pursue cases both new and old."  

Some have sought political reasons for the increase. Eric Goldstein, CEO of United Jewish Appeal - Federation of New York, has noted that anti-Semitic elements exist on both the political right and left and that "politicizing anti-Semitism prevents our ability to fight it."  

There is never any justification for anti-Semitism. As Christians, we believe that any form of racism or bigotry is ultimately rooted in sin.

It is also speculated that the increase could be coming, in part, due to increased reporting.   

How should Christians think about this?  

There is never any justification for anti-Semitism. As Christians, we believe that any form of racism or bigotry is ultimately rooted in sin. Jesus commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31), which is a theme woven throughout Scripture. This applies to every tribe, tongue, and nation. 

As followers of Jesus, we should have a special desire to fight anti-Semitism. Russell Moore says it this way: 

"Anti-Semitism is, by definition, a repudiation of Christianity as well as of Judaism. This ought to be obvious, but world history, even church history, shows us this is not the case. Christians reject anti-Semitism because we love Jesus.

I will often hear Christians say, 'Remember that Jesus was Jewish.' That’s true enough, but the past tense makes it sound as though Jesus’ Jewishness were something he sloughed off at the resurrection. Jesus is alive now, enthroned in heaven. He is transfigured and glorified, yes, but he is still Jesus. This means he is still, and always will be, human. He is still, and always will be, the son of Mary. He is, and always will be, a Galilean. When Jesus appeared before Saul of Tarsus on the Road to Damascus, the resurrected Christ introduced himself as 'Jesus of Nazareth' (Acts 22:8). Jesus is Jewish, present tense.

Indeed, much of the New Testament is about precisely that point. Jesus is a son of Abraham. He is of the tribe of Judah. He is of the House of David. Jesus’ kingship is valid because he descends from the royal line. His priesthood, though not of the tribe of Levi, is proven valid because of Melchizedek the priest’s relation to Abraham. Those of us who are joint-heirs with Christ are such only because Jesus is himself the offspring and heir of Abraham (Gal. 3:29).

As Christians, we are, all of us, adopted into a Jewish family, into an Israelite story. We who were once not a people have been grafted on, in Jesus, to the branch that is Israel (Rom. 11:17-18). That’s why the New Testament can speak even to Gentile Christians as though the story of their own forefathers were that of the Old Testament Scriptures. We have been brought into an Israelite story, a story that started not in first-century Bethlehem but, millennia before, in the promise that Abraham would be the father of many nations. Whatever our ethnic background, if we are in Christ, we are joined to him. That means the Jewish people are, in a very real sense, our people too. An attack on the Jewish people is an attack on all of us."

Sadly, in every generation, there are renewed attacks on the Jewish people fueled by murderous ideologies. Christians are called to stand against every form of anti-Semitism. 

What should Christians do going forward?

First, Christians should reach out to Jewish communities. Though the recent anti-Semitism has been concentrated in New York, there have been a number of shootings at synagogues across the country (most notably in Southern California and Pittsburgh) and other anti-Semitic acts. Do you know someone in your community affected by this? Reach out and minister to them as only the body of Christ can, giving of ourselves emotionally, spiritually, and financially if needed.

Second, Christians should pray for Jewish communities. As many Jewish sects literally wear their religion on their sleeves (and hair and other external appearance), they are easy targets for people looking to commit anti-Semitic acts. Pray for their safety, that their needs would be met, and for their salvation.

Third, Christians should use their influence to speak out against anti-Semitism. If we are to love our Jewish neighbors as ourselves, we should use our voices to speak up and speak out against anti-Semitic bigotry and work toward justice for those who cause Jewish people physical harm.