My generation believed that upon reaching our domestic and professional goals, we were more or less set for life. And so, by the end of the 1960s, I thought I was out of the shoals with only clear sailing ahead. During that decade, our three children were born into a city so safe there was no need to talk of safety at all. From the time they were in second or third grade, they rode the municipal buses on their own. Once when Billy, lost in thought, missed his stop, landed at the end of the line, and started trudging back, he was spotted by a woman who invited him in to phone us. We got him home scarcely more than an hour later than usual.
In the wake of the shooting in Pittsburgh, a volley of voices called for more of this or that—armed guards or gun control, barring the doors of synagogues, policing of fringe web platforms or resources for mental health. While President Trump denounced the shooting as “an evil anti-Semitic attack” and visited the grieving community, a sector of the media blamed the president for the incident, as it does for everything else. It was politics as usual.
Cui bono? Who benefits? Who benefits when Jews are turned into scapegoats for the ills of the world? Who stands to gain from turning the Jews into the source of all a society’s pathologies? Who comes out ahead when politics are organized against that ever-present outsider—the Jew?
In the living room of our daughter’s home hangs a 4-by-6-foot Jewish flag designed by her paternal great-grandfather, hastily sewn from blue and white material in his Montreal dry-goods store. In November 1917, on receiving news that the British government had just given its support for the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine, Nathan Black strung the flag across his storefront and closed for the day. “Haynt iz a yontev,” he told his workers: “Today is a holiday.”
This summer, Nazi symbols and the slogan “Jews will not replace us” at a rally of white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, generated a rare clarifying moment in an otherwise politically scrambled time. Since the United States led the Allies to victory in the Second World War and the Nuremburg Trials condemned the perpetrators of genocide, Nazism has been the most powerful symbol of evil in our culture and Jews its most identifiable victims.
March madness is no longer limited to the basketball court. This month, American campuses are being invaded by the latest form of college hazing: Israeli Apartheid Week. Jewish students are made to walk past displays that distort their history, defame their national homeland and shame their religious heritage, while those on campus who are not complicit in the ritual try to ignore their humiliation.