By Ellen McGirt
February 22, 2017

When the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect comes for you, you’re not living your life correctly.

That’s the only possible conclusion for the current state of discourse between the Trump administration and the millions of voters who have become deeply alarmed at the clear rise in anti-Semitic threats and attacks that have occurred since the president took office.

Jewish community centers across the country have been bombarded with what appears to be coordinated attacks, phoned-in bomb threats that have forced widespread evacuations, frightening children and adults. In total, the national JCC has logged calls to 53 JCCs in 26 states in the last two months. Until yesterday, there was little hope of comfort or acknowledgment from the highest office in the land, a deafening silence which had only been broken when the president verbally harangued a Jewish reporter for asking about his plan to address the hate.

Then yesterday, the White House press office issued this statement, in response to NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander:

“Hatred and hate-motivated violence of any kind have no place in a country founded on the promise of individual freedom. The President has made it abundantly clear that these actions are unacceptable.”

The response from Jewish groups was swift and clear: This is not enough. “We look to our political leaders at all levels to speak out against such threats directed against Jewish institutions, to make it clear that such actions are unacceptable, and to pledge that they will work with law enforcement officials to ensure that those responsible will be apprehended and punished to the full extent of the law,” National Anti-Defamation League Director Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

But Steven Goldstein, the executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, went further. In a searing statement published late yesterday, he said: “The President’s sudden acknowledgement of Anti-Semitism is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Anti-Semitism that has infected his own Administration,” it begins. “Make no mistake: The Anti-Semitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we’ve ever seen coming from any Administration.”

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s rejoinder from behind his bully podium made things worse. “I wish that they [the Anne Frank Center] had praised the President for his leadership in this area. And I think hopefully as time continues to go by, they will recognize his commitment to civil rights, to voting rights, to equality for all Americans.”

You can review the resulting Twitter fight that took place between a non-profit devoted to tolerance and a representative of the greatest office in the land on your next coffee break. Much of it was in ALL CAPS, and none of it was praise.

Instead, let’s praise a different response. After nearly 200 headstones were damaged or toppled in the Jewish Chesed Shel Emeth Society cemetery in a St. Louis, Missouri suburb, a campaign organized by two Muslim Americans, Linda Sarsour of MPower Change and Tarek El-Messidi of CelebrateMercy, extended condolences and raised money for repairs. At raceAhead press time, more than 2,500 supporters have raised more than $70,000, nearly three times their original target.

“Less than 4 hours and we already met our goal,” Sansour wrote on Facebook. “We hope this campaign brought some healing for the Jewish families who have loved ones laid to rest at the St. Louis cemetery.”

It’s always inspiring when ordinary people who are sometimes seen as adversaries band together to help right a clear wrong. But when people with real position power miss an opportunity to disavow terrible and illegal behavior, the silence is more than deafening; it fuels and enables the worst in others. If you see something, say something.


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