(Part 1 in a series of articles about antisemitism in New Jersey)
The number of antisemitic attacks reached record levels in 2021 and 2022, with many attacks occurring in New Jersey. That was the disturbing and pervasive message at a panel discussion that commemorated and recognized International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The Jewish Community Relations Council presented the event, and the Jewish Federations of New Jersey. The event was hosted by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ).
About 100 people attended the event and fielded questions from a distinguished and diverse panel. Panelists included Carlos Medina, President and CEO of the Statewide Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey. John Harmon, President of the AACCNJ; Rabbi Esther Reed, Interim Director at Rutgers University Hillel and Reginald Johnson, an agent with the Middlesex County Prosecutors Office-Bias Community Outreach Unit.
According to many state leaders, community awareness, activism, and prevention methods is essential following recent high-profile attacks against the Jewish community. For example, in late January video of someone throwing a Molotov cocktail through the entrance of the Temple Ner Tamid synagogue in Bloomfield, NJ, surfaced. The attempted arson failed when the device could not breach the facility’s glass doors. Similarly, in 2022 a man was attacked in Lakewood, NJ, in what police called an antisemitic attack. The Ocean County town is home to a sizeable Jewish population. And in November, several threats against New Jersey synagogues were deemed credible by the FBI.
Additionally, with the increase in antisemitic attacks, spikes in hate crimes against African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and members of the LGBTQ. Hate crimes tend to spike whenever a minority group is blamed for an actual or anticipatory crisis, such as Asian Americans being responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. “Antisemitism and hate crimes against anyone has no place in our society,” said John Harmon, president, and CEO of the AACCNJ. “We will continue to raise awareness and encourage community activism against these attacks.”
Antisemitism and Politics
Nationally, antisemitic tropes by celebrities, such as singer Kanye (Ye’) West and actor Mel Gibson have fueled attacks against Jews. In politics, inflammatory rhetoric by former president Donald Trump to lower-level local New Jersey politicos like former Trenton City Council president Kathy McBride and North Jersey congresswoman Alexandra Soriano-Taveras is tied to the growing antisemitic sentiment in the Garden State.
For example, in 2019, during a city council meeting, McBride used the slur “Jew her down,” when expressing her concern about a $22,000 legal settlement the city was forced to pay. And in 2021, former Democratic Municipal Committee Chair Alexandra Soriano-Taveras in Teaneck was forced to job a bid for an Assembly seat after she called for a boycott of all Jewish-owned businesses in north Jersey. After public outrage, both women later apologized for their comments.
Several bills decrying antisemitism are currently pending in Congress. The legislation, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (S2434/A3882) provides an all-inclusive description of the multifaceted nature of antisemitism, including discrimination, hatred of Jews, and conspiracy theories. The New Jersey State League of municipalities endorsed the measures.
Finally, in a statement to the media following the recent attack on the synagogue in Bloomfield, Gov. Phil Murphys said, “It’s a despicable act. I know law enforcement at all levels is pursuing this, and I’m here tonight with the ambassador to say we will not relent. We will have the backs of communities like this all around our state.”
(Part 2 of the series will examine specific examples of antisemitism in New Jersey).