What to Read After Colleyville

Like everyone in our community, I’m going into this Shabbat with the events of last Shabbat, in Colleyville, Texas, very much at the front of my mind. I find myself not having much to say that I haven’t said before; and appreciating things that have been said by several others this week.   

So, here are a few pieces I’d encourage you to read this weekend, and one action I would urge you to take: 

Time and again I’ve written that it is not our responsibility as Jews to fight antisemitism. That responsibility falls to the communities from whence it comes: the churches and mosques, our society as a whole. It is, however, our role as Jews, the impacted and targeted community, to help our neighbors see and appreciate what we are experiencing, and to understand what antisemitism is. 

To that end I commend to you two new pieces this week about what antisemitism is and how to understand it: 

Laura Adkins explains in the Washington Post how antisemitism is, at heart, a conspiracy theory: 

While we often rush to characterize these attacks as emanating from the “right” or “left,” this is not a helpful impulse. Antisemitism transcends such binaries. Reducing the conspiracy theory to a political argument only makes combating it harder and can blind people to antisemitism when it is advanced by those in their own circles. Instead, we must attack the problem at its roots. Rather than looking for political solutions or pointing fingers across the aisle, we should be combating the myth of Jewish power. 

And Yair Rosenberg explains in The Atlantic how well-meaning people who say they oppose antisemitism can still get it wrong (as we saw in some statements coming out of Texas on Saturday):  

The FBI later corrected its misstep, but the episode reflects the general ignorance about anti-Semitism even among people of goodwill. Unlike many other bigotries, anti-Semitism is not merely a social prejudice; it is a conspiracy theory about how the world operates. This addled outlook is what united the Texas gunman, a Muslim, with the 2018 shooter at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue, a white supremacist who sought to stanch the flow of Muslims into America. It is a worldview shared by Louis Farrakhan, the Black hate preacher, and David Duke, the former KKK grand wizard. And it is a political orientation that has been expressed by the self-styled Christian conservative leader of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, and Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran’s Islamic theocracy. 

On Tuesday night, JCRC joined CJP and ADL to convene a community briefing with over 1,200 people to share information and resources, and to hear from Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Boston; and Rachael Rollins, U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. If you missed it, you can watch it here.  

As I said that night, we do need to, and can have a conversation clearly, publicly and thoughtfully about the perpetrators of all the attacks on our community these past few years, from white supremacists, black nationalists, and – in Brighton and Colleyville – an Egyptian and a British national who are Muslim.  

But in having that conversation, we also, I said, need to be aware of and lift up voices of our partners and allies, including a dear personal friend of mine, Imam Abdullah Antepli, who spoke at a JCRC event this past September. Imam Antepli has been outspoken in addressing antisemitism within his own community – before Colleyville, and again this week. I encourage you to read or listen to an interview he gave to Jewish Insider on Tuesday.  

(While you are at it, you might want to read this op-ed by Antepli’s co-director of the Muslim Leadership Initiative, Maital Freidman, on what we as Jews can learn from his leadership as a model for the Jewish community on how to combat hate within our own community) 

I recommend to you this piece in the Boston Globe today by JCRC’s vice-president, Samantha Joseph. She writes from a deeply personal place as the daughter of a congregational rabbi. She also writes with pride about the work we do at JCRC advocating for government funds toward non-profit security. 

Thank you to Samantha, and to all these friends who put their thoughts to paper this week. They’ve helped me think through the events of last Shabbat and they guide my thinking, this week and always.  

Finally, I said I would have an action item for you. If you haven’t done so already, I ask you to contact your Members of Congress and urge them to double the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NPSG) funding this year.  

We’re proud of the work we’ve done over the years together with Jewish Federations of North America and with JCRCs around the country to advocate for this resource, and for a supplementary Commonwealth grant fund here in Massachusetts. These funds have had a significant impact in helping our institutions with the resources they need as they make hard choices to continue being places of gathering and vibrant Jewish life despite recent threats. Now you have a role to play in ensuring that more funds become available, and that our government meet its responsibility to ensure that we can continue to enjoy our freedom of assembly and worship. 

Take action, enjoy these readings, and Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Burton

JCRC Executive Director