Nov. 22 2016
Responding to the commonly heard refrain that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and election have led to a surge of anti-Semitic incidents, Mordechai Lightstone, a ḥasidic Jew, comments:
I have a full beard, a black hat, and a dark suit. Yet even in Brooklyn, people have always said nasty things to me and to other people who look like me. I’ve had kids yell “Heil Hitler” at me on Eastern Parkway and teens throw glass bottles at me on Bedford Avenue. On the eve of Yom Kippur, anti-kapparot protesters . . . gathered in Crown Heights, brandishing signs that compared [Ḥasidim engaged in the ritual slaughter of chickens] to Hitler. They screamed obscenities, hit men with signs, and told small children that their parents were going to die.
Last week I took a picture of a swastika spray-painted onto a Crown Heights sidewalk and posted it on Twitter. It was instantly retweeted, quoted, and written about by media pundits across the country. Buzzfeed added it to a list of “28 Reported Racist and Violent Incidents after Donald Trump’s Victory.” The [New York City] mayor’s office tweeted a condemnation of the swastika. All of this is great, at least as great as one can call a response to a swastika, but I wonder what’s changed now.
Two-and-a-half years ago, I was walking with my kids on Shabbat morning and saw swastikas sprayed on a Crown Heights wall along with [a vulgar anti-Semitic message]. It made local news, but the mayor’s office didn’t retweet that picture. I didn’t see condemnations coming in from San Francisco, Phoenix, or Moscow, the way I did this week.
So it’s nice that the Anti-Defamation League has taken a stand against [right-wing anti-Semitism on social media]. But I still think about how rioters in 1991 threw rocks at [the headquarters of the Chabad-Lubavitch Ḥasidim], smashed windows of Jewish homes, and shouted “Heil Hitler” in Crown Heights—at that time, the ADL called it a “local issue.”