The question du jour is whether anti-Semitism is rising in Rockland County. We believe the answer to this question is an emphatic ‘NO!’ However, it is perhaps time that there be an open discussion about Rockland’s “Elephant In The Room.”
[This article was written by Jeff Gillies and Michael Hull both of whom are residents of Rockland County. The opinions they express are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rockland Voice.]
Recently numerous bomb threats were phoned in to various Jewish organizations throughout the United States, many of which law officials have now confirmed originated from overseas. In the only arrest to date, it appears that a disgraced journalist was making anti-Semitic threats which he hoped to pin on an ex-girlfriend in a twisted attempt at some sort of revenge against her.
Given the evidence to date it is hard to see how these bomb threats, while undoubtedly disturbing and deplorable, translate into any proof of rising anti-Semitism in the United States and particularly in Rockland County.
In Rockland, three recent incidents have occurred involving the spray painting of anti-Semitic messages and symbols. While the content of these spray paintings were all deplorable, the true motivation of the still unidentified perpetrators remains unknown. We certainly cannot dismiss the possibility that these acts were committed by a hateful group of anti-Semities; however, we also can’t rule out the possibility that these acts were terribly misguided acts of vandalism committed by teenagers lacking the full comprehension of the impact these symbols and words.
Phone threats are easier to trace than finding the morons who use spray cans to deface trees and fences, as the nutty “journalist” has now discovered. Recently, the garage door of a mixed race couple not far from here in Connecticut had the word N****r spray painted on it by equally similarly ignorant or hateful morons. Is this an act that should be universally condemned, investigated, and prosecuted if the perpetrators are caught? Of course it is. Is this evidence that the residents of Connecticut have a problem with rising racism? Of course not.
In recent articles and posts with contrarian views on this matter we find much that we agree with as expressed in the following article titled ‘Out With The Old, In With The New‘ in which we read …
“When one of True Torah Jews staff members received a phone call from his mother-in-law, who resides in Canada, asking how they were faring in the new and hostile environment of America, he was at a loss as to what she meant. His mother-in-law then proceeded to explain herself by citing several news items concerning swastikas being painted on subway cars in New York City. To this he replied with wonder, “A bunch of lowlifes painting swastikas on a subway car is news?” This sums up the present atmosphere where the most inconsequential incident can be used as proof of the President’s undesirable influence on the public.
Though muckraking is a familiar and more or less accepted part of the American political scene, using a particular group to corroborate one’s point can and often does have dire consequences. When the news and others constantly transmit a message of “Anti-Semitism has skyrocketed!” those who might be inclined to bigotry but not brave enough to act upon it will be given a new- found feeling of security. “Oh,” Mr. Racist could think, “there’s already so much of it. It must no longer be such a taboo. Maybe I can also get in on the action.”
By continually broadcasting hyped up accounts of anti-Semitic outbreaks, those who see themselves as defending the rights of minority groups, including Jews, are in fact feeding the beast of prejudice and hate.”
We trust the FBI will get to the bottom of the bomb threats; as the technology exists to trace many calls directly to a source device. However, that becomes more difficult when sophisticated spoofing techniques are used from foreign countries as appears to be the situation in this case. Thus one can only speculate as to who the sources might be and what motivations might be driving such activity.
As to the spray painted graffiti in Rockland, mis-spelled words and incorrectly drawn hate symbols seem to be evidence that these acts were the work of teenage morons or a “bunch of lowlifes.” It will require a stroke of good fortune to catch these “lowlifes” in the act. One might note also in passing that in past years “lowlifes” have toppled headstones in Christian cemeteries in Rockland County, and at Christmas time similar “lowlifes” repeatedly steal Jesus figures from publicly displayed crèches.
Each of these individual acts are disturbing and contemptible, but before accusing a society or community at large of rampant anti-Semitism or racism one needs to see some arrests for these activities in order to determine if those arrested are part of organized anti-Semitic or racist organizations or if they are simply misguided, isolated “lowlifes” acting out for headlines or out of their own hatred.
The unfortunate reality is that ignorance, hatred, racism, prejudice, and anti-Semitism all exist to varying degrees throughout the world, and Rockland County is no exception. We hold the opinion that in general, Rockland is likely far above any national norm that might exist in terms of being a welcoming and tolerant community for all.
Given the above, we still must not avoid admitting that there is an ‘elephant in the room‘ here in Rockland County which is of course the rising anger felt by many Rockland citizens about the actions and behavior of a self-segregated and extremist religious cult whose power is greatly enhanced through political influence and corruption.
The key word in this equation is anger; there is undoubtedly a rapidly rising tide of anger in Rockland County. We believe that anger stems from the rise of a political reality in which one faction has seized control of several levels of local government, creating a scenario where a religious community is almost completely exempt from the rules and laws that apply to the community at large. We further submit that in our opinion the political party that bends to this influence is perhaps the most significant part of the problem. It should also be noted that the cult seeking this undue political influence has no political party loyalty beyond the determination of which one it can control. In Rockland, it happens to be the Democratic Party that has presently been hijacked.
It is equally important to note that this rise in anger would be no different, in our opinion, if these behaviors were coming from cults professing their view that a Christian or Muslim theology was the only “true way,” and that all non-believers were in some way “impure souls” who were theologically damned, and that our laws and our quality of their life on this earth were of secondary importance to their true belief.
We hold the view that this anger, which we admit is real and growing, is directed at the BEHAVIORS, and not at the BELIEFS of ANY group. Moreover, it is anger that should be directed at the behavior of the leaders of these religious factions and the actions of the politicians they control, and not at the innocent and decent people born into a life of indoctrination and control. Indeed, this issue is now openly expressed and discussed by the public in articles and news segments that have appeared in the Journal News, on local television, and on Facebook. Regrettably, many people of influence prefer to ignore this ‘elephant’ and try to connect it with what is being painted on trees and on white picket fences by “lowlifes.”
In our view, the political corruption that enables religious cults to impose their will on the rest of Rockland, and that cult’s “to the political victors go any and all of the spoils” philosophy are the primary issues that must be addressed.
Rockland is experiencing rampant over-development with complete disregard for zoning regulations. Ramapo has unsafe schools illegally operating out of residential properties, many of which are receiving taxpayer funding despite the fact that they do not meet the New York State standards of providing a substantially equivalent education to public schools. The lack of secular education produces class after class of students destined to become permanent wards of the State. It is therefore no surprise that Medicaid and other social services costs are completely off the charts in several communities in Rockland, with a state cap on Medicaid paid by the county currently the only measure saving Rockland from bankruptcy. Criminals in one community, including sexual abusers of children, walk away with sweetheart plea bargains, while others burn down the houses of those who are shunned.
What Rocklanders really want is ‘Equal Treatment For All, Special Preference For None.’ What Rocklanders currently get from Ramapo, the majority in the Rockland County Legislature, and many other levels of local government is the opposite. Is it any wonder people are angry about it?
We encourage all to read the ‘Out With The Old, In With The New‘ article, which offers some interesting perspectives on the subject at a national level.
What we fear is that when politicians, the news media, and social activists accept a possibly false premise about anti-Semitism in Rockland County, trotting out tired mantras about opposing hate while bomb sniffing dogs are used for a quick photo opportunity at a Jewish Center, the ‘elephant’ will continue to sit in the corner, periodically rising to upend the furniture and trample the dogs.
[**DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions in this article do not represent the views of the editorial staff at Rockland Voice. It offers another perspective for public review]