WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Just over the past calendar year anti-semitic attacks have reached disturbing numbers.
An attack at a Hanukkah celebration in New York over the weekend has Jews all across the country joining in solidarity.
“This is the 13th incident of anti-semitism in just the past few weeks. It comes during a period of high holidays for the Jewish people,” said New York governor Andrew Cuomo.
An attack where a man walked into a rabbi’s house and stabbed people celebrating the seventh night of Hanukkah is just the latest in a rash of anti-semitic violence across the nation.
Less than three weeks before, a man shot up a kosher store just across the river in New Jersey.
“There is no question that this is a hate crime,” said jersey city mayor Steven Fulop. “Antisemitism should be called out aggressively, firmly and immediately for what it is. Anything other than that is a disservice to antisemitism.”
Along with major incidents from San Diego to Pittsburgh, anti-semitism is an epidemic at the forefront of the headlines.
“I say enough is enough,” said Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf. “We need to step up and end this behavior before it becomes normalized.”
Hanukkah celebrates the re-dedication of the second temple after an ancient military victory, but local communities are still fighting for their freedoms today.
“As a Jewish person, just looking back a calendar year — we have the massacre in the Pittsburgh synagogue, the horrific attack in San Diego and there was the horrific attack at the kosher grocery store in Jersey City. That’s specifically targeting Jews,” said Rabbi David Kaplan of Wilkes-Barre’s congregation Ohav Zedek. “This attack–this horror that happened in Monsey, NY, in the Hasidic Jewish community, is an egregious breach of everything that Hanukkah stands for. We feel very united and very close-knit. A breach or attack on any Jew , anywhere — we all feel that.”
Local congregation leaders have been called to rally their people in the face of adversity many times.
“Hopefully this will galvanize others in legislation and in positions of power to really make a difference and pull out all the stops to make this come to a head,” said Rabbi Eric Mollo of Temple B’nai Brith in Kingston.
This latest incident brings back memories for some still reeling from this year’s incidents.
“It’s disgusting,” he added. “It’s egregious and we absolutely will not stand for it and should not stand for it.”
Leaders in the local Jewish community say they are still told that their people live in fear to wear religious items or be themselves in public.
“It’s almost like the candles oh Hanukkah that we have lit have now become Yhartzeit candles–memorial candles for the dead,” said Kaplan.
The year of anti-semitic outbreaks has lead to more security measures in a country that was founded on freedoms of speech and freedom from religious persecution.
“It has become a reality for all Jewish congregations in the United States and around the world,” added Mollo.
“We’re not desirous of arming our temples and synagogues but we have and that’s just the reality of the world that we live in since Pittsburgh,” said Kaplan. “Pittsburgh really struck so close to home for everyone here.”
Time and time again the Jewish community stands tall and has to recover from attacks on their faith. Rabbis Kaplan and Mollo tell me that public support from all allies for the Jewish community goes a long way, but that they continue to mobilize and thrive for each other.
“That’s what we are,” Mollo added. “We’re a small group but we will never, never give up.”