After nine people were brutally murdered last Wednesday night by a racist gunman during a Bible study class, Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME church was open once again to its worshipers this morning.
We would be amiss in our duties if we did not mention this event. No it was not an attack on a synagogue or on Jews — but it very easily could have been. It was no different than the massacre of Jews in Paris last January, nonetheless. The gunman– the murderer — shot and killed all of those people in a house of worship because he was a racist with hate in his heart. Americans and Europeans like to believe that their societies have evolved beyond senseless hate, racism and antisemitism, but this is not the case.
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Europeans blamed the recent attacks on Jews on Arab immigrants angry about Israel. This was just a smoke screen. There is still antisemitism all over Europe.
Many Americans tried to blame what happened in Charleston last week on a deranged gunman who could just have easily chosen a different target. But this is simply not true.
The murderer there was an avowed racist who deliberately chose to attack a Black church.
Racism and antisemitism are alive and well in both Europe and America. The attack in Charleston was no less and act of terrorism than the attack on the Paris Kosher supermarket was in January. Whether committed by a lone gunman or an organized group, hatred is hatred, murder is murder, and terrorism is terrorism.
Just because America elected a Black President does not mean that racism is over in America.
So too antisemitism is not over in the World and Jews should not and must not let anyone attribute acts of violence against them to the unpopularity of Israel around the world.
It is no coincidence that last Wednesday’s attack took place in a State which was known as the cradle of the Confederacy and where the Confederate flag is still part of the State flag.
Racism and antisemitism are no different than one another. They are both based on senseless hatred. Their perpetrators try to justify them with both religious and political arguments.
But neither is defensible on any level.
We all stand together today with the African American community as a whole and any persecuted minority anywhere in the world.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach issued a statement on the atrocious shooting this week in Charleston, calling it a “calculated act of racial terrorism” and calling for federal legislation to increase the penalty for hate crimes committed in a house of worship:
“Like so many around America, I was shocked and horrified by the calculated act of racial terrorism that struck a church this week in Charleston, South Carolina. The murder of nine innocent congregants at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church serves as a painful reminder that America’s racial wounds have not healed and must be addressed. It is especially painful that this cowardly act targeted a house of worship. ”