Photo Credit: Mordechai Lightstone via Twitter
Anti-Semitic post-it note found at Brooklyn Jewish Children's Museum in Crown Heights, May 30 2019

Considering the numerous reports of anti-Semitic attacks both here and in Europe, I was somewhat dismayed recently to read several articles that either implicitly or explicitly blamed Jews for the crimes committed against them.

In one article, the author bemoans the habit of Jews in neighborhoods like Crown Heights to walk with their eyes glued to the sidewalk and not say “hello” or “good morning” to their black neighbors. The bad feelings that may result are our fault, the author strongly implies. Also strongly implied is that Jews avert their eyes from their black neighbors because of racism – intentional or otherwise.


So there you have it. We may not intend to be racist, but we just are, and we must work on bettering ourselves if we want anti-Semites to stop attacking us.

The fact is that Jew often pass – not only blacks – but whites too without saying hello. Racism has nothing to do with it. The mother walking with a stroller and several kids in tow, rushing to get somewhere, may be too preoccupied with her thoughts and her children to extend a greeting. Did that not occur to the author?

And let’s not forget that in that very same neighborhood, Jews have been punched, beaten, cursed at, and spat upon by anti-Semitic blacks shouting racial slurs simply because they dare to walk the streets dressed as identifiable Jews. Perhaps some of these Jews avert their eyes for fear of provoking another attack. Keeping to ourselves may be a defense mechanism ingrained in us over many centuries. Did that, too, not occur to the author?

In another article I read recently, the author warns us that if we don’t pay closer attention to acts that may be perceived as racist, we may be responsible for any serious consequences that result from them. We also may be harming our souls, as well as the souls of others, in the process. To illustrate this point, the author describes a family that dressed up in blackface for Purim, which apparently hurt the feelings of a Jewish black woman. This incident was presented as an example of the Jewish people’s insensitivity and the hurt we inflict on others due to racism.

Of course, this accusation couldn’t be further removed from reality. The Jewish people are inherently open and welcoming people. We don’t cause anti-Semitism or hate. We are – like any other people – a mixed group with all sorts. Some of us are more introverted, some are gregarious and sociable. Some of us can’t let go of the past. Some are more forgiving and open. But we don’t roam the streets looking for victims to attack. We don’t shout racial slurs at our neighbors.

After the Jersey City shooting, a video was released in which a black woman shouts profanities against the Jews and blames the shooting on the Jews living in Jersey City. “You don’t belong here,” she keeps shouting. It was enough to make one shudder.

We must declare loudly: Stop blaming the victim. Stop blaming our community. We are not responsible for anti-Semitism directed at us. Lay the blame where it belongs – on the perpetrators of the crimes.


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Ettie Kryksman is a longtime yeshiva and public school teacher living in Brooklyn.