The birthplace of my grandfathers and grandmothers, the birthplace of my parents, the birthplace of my children - Philadelphia has always felt like my home. Until last weekend, when the memories of more than 100 Jews were desecrated by what can only be assumed to be yet another in a wave of blatant and unrelenting anti-Semitic attacks in our Philadelphia Jewish community and throughout America ("Headstones toppled at Jewish cemetery," Monday).
In 2014, it was a Jewish student who was called a kike and punched in the face at Temple University, which my mother, mother-in-law, and father-in-law attended. Then it was a swastika on a kosher butcher store, just like the one in which my paternal grandfather worked his whole life so he could send his only daughter to college. More recently, it was the swastika spray-painted on a storefront on South Broad Street - just like the family green grocer my maternal grandfather worked in growing up in North Philly.
And Saturday it was about 100 gravestones desecrated in Mount Carmel Cemetery.
Even when we are dead, they hate us.
And so I ask: Philadelphia, is this what we have become? America, is this our new normal? Does not the United States, as George Washington wrote, give "to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance"?
If this American dream, manifest in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, is to survive, then we need to know who stands with us in this moment of crisis, because make no mistake - they have come for us.
|Rabbi Joel Seltzer, Philadelphia
It is no mystery why the Jewish graves were desecrated in Philadelphia. President Trump accepted the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan. Steve Bannon, who is an alt-right advocate, is the president's chief strategist. Trump has repeatedly made disparaging remarks about the ethnicity of others, and despite his new national security adviser's warning to stop referring to "radical Islamic terrorism," the president still sees Muslims as a threat.
The Republican Party is devoting a lot of time to disenfranchising minority voters. Hate crimes are on the rise, thanks to what this president has said and the refusal of the GOP to set limits on his behavior. So, the administration's so-called condemnation of these acts hardly seem genuine. Just because Trump's son-in-law is Jewish and his daughter converted to Judaism does not make Trump a paragon of virtue.
How long before Rep. Pat Meehan (R., Pa.) and Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.) make similar announcements and shed crocodile tears for these outrageous acts? They have shown their support for this president and overlooked a lot of his egregious behavior.
|George Magakis Jr., Norristown
In the last year, we witnessed an explosion of open anti-Semitism on college campuses; mainstream promotion of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement to cripple Israel financially and demonize it; and President Obama's open rancor toward Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, matched with facilitation of the United Nation's censure of Israel and a $221 million gift to the Palestinians.
Simultaneously, we witnessed President Trump supporters and conservative public speakers attacked, shunned, and intimidated into silence; rioting in the name of protesting Trump; and the president standing with his Jewish family members, openly pledging renewed support for Netanyahu.
Yet, the Inquirer's editorial board blames Trump's rhetoric for attacks on Jewish cemeteries and synagogues ("Cemetery crime hateful," Tuesday)? I guarantee I know more Trump supporters than your editorial board does collectively, and none of them resembles the hate-filled bigots you accuse them to be.
If you want to save Israel and Jews everywhere, it's time to let us know the real enemy.
|Julia Bohnenberger, Wayne, email@example.com
As Jews, we are greatly disturbed by increasing numbers of anti-Semitic incidents and lackluster efforts by the Trump administration to rebuke such behavior ("Jewish centers evacuated in Pa., N.J., Del.," Tuesday). The root causes of such incidents must be addressed. These incidents follow an increase in anti-Islamic hatred, prompted by fear of terrorist attacks by radicalized Islamic fundamentalists. But why attack Jews? Is Jewish liberalism being targeted by the far-right?
This vitriolic mood has been exacerbated by powerful individuals in the Trump administration, especially Steve Bannon and his alt-right associate, Richard Spencer, and by Trump's immigration policy. A drift to the right could explain acts of anti-Semitism and brings to mind the rise of fascism in Germany during the 1930s, leading to Hitler and the Holocaust. God help us if our democracy should be undermined by such attitudes.
We urge our leaders to be mindful of anti-democratic policies, and ready to risk everything to defend our cherished democracy.
|Eleanor and Gerald Sapers, Warrington
I never knew my grandparents and had not visited their graves since my mother passed away many years ago. Because of the recent horrible news, I felt the need to visit their graves at Har Nebo Cemetery on Oxford Avenue. The desecration of their section of the cemetery might not be new, but it was no less shameful. Graves were turned over and tossed aside. I remember the stories our mother would tell as we stood in front of our grandparents' stones. She would make the names on the stones come alive to my sister and me. It had meaning. They were simple people, but they are our family, and they had value.
|Merrill Freedman, Cherry Hill
As a kippah-wearing Jew, I am as concerned with anti-Semitism as the next guy, but I am disgusted by the people who are using it as a political weapon against President Trump.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, anti-Semitic assaults in the United States rose 21 percent in 2014 and 3 percent in 2015, while such attacks at U.S. colleges and universities nearly doubled in 2015. Temple University was identified in a 2015 study as the eighth worst university in the country for anti-Semitism.
That was during President Barack Obama's administration, as was a terrorist attack that killed four Jews at a kosher grocery in Paris, which Obama refused to identify as anti-Semitism.
All of that preceded Trump's election, so it wasn't a big deal then.
|Shalom Gittler, Cherry Hill, firstname.lastname@example.org
As clerk of the Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting and an immigration attorney, I want to express my concern about the desecration of the Jewish graves at Mount Carmel Cemetery. I have frequently represented Jews from around the world seeking asylum in the United States. In assessing whether to grant asylum, the adjudicator will frequently measure the climate of anti-Semitism in the country the applicant is fleeing by summing up acts of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries. By that measure, our community and our nation are failing a vital test of morality.
As community members, it is not enough for us to simply bemoan that failure. Each of us has a responsibility to find some added measure of good that we can do in the world that will lift us as a community.