The March of Silent Feet. “No Hate. No Fear.”

Placards during march over the Brooklyn Bridge, January 5, 2020 (photo: FirstOneThrough)

An estimated 25,000 people marched from Manhattan’s City Hall over the Brooklyn Bridge on January 5, 2020.

The message from the group organizers – mainly Jewish alphabet groups like UJA, AJC, ADL and JCRC – was “No Hate. No Fear.”  The signs were everywhere, but few of the marchers uttered the words.

Senator Chuck Schumer talking to the cameras before the march.

Various politicians lined up to address the TV cameras but not the audience before the march took place, including New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Senator Chuck Schumer.  The masses then followed the politicians over the bridge to a park in Brooklyn, escorted by scores of police and members of CSS, the Jewish Community Security Service.

The people came from beyond the five boroughs including Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington D.C. and Canada.  There were a few people in town from Florida and Israel who joined the protest, as well as a number who used to live in Quebec and France.  The attitude of the crowd was much the same: frustration but not trepidation.

The tagline of the event was roundly dismissed: “No hate?”   That’s an absurd concept.   People hate as naturally as they love. Hatred will never be vanquished.  However, we should seek and do our utmost to advance a world with no blanket hatred of groups of people.  Hating a person because of an action may be warranted, but not a collective.  But even more pressing, no violence – that’s what people truly demand.

Marcher over Brooklyn Bridge during March Against Hate, January 5, 2020 (photo: FirstOneThrough)

The march took place in the shadow of growing violence against Jews in the tri-state NY/NJ/CT area including shootings, stabbings, punchings, assaults and throwing bricks in people’s faces.  And not just any faces – Jews, specifically.  The march’s motto was deaf to that point.

The audience tacitly showed its disapproval when the march’s principal orchestrator, Michael Miller, CEO of the JCRC urged the crowd to repeat after him “No Hate. No Fear. No Hate.  No Fear.” Generic hate?  What about antisemitism specifically?  Very few people echoed Miller.

However, the crowd was enthusiastic to the remarks made by Devorah Halberstam, mother of Ari Halberstam who was killed while riding in a bus over the Brooklyn Bridge in 1994.  She demanded justice for victims with real punishments for perpetrators of hate crimes.  She urged everyone to be proud Jews and not hide their religiosity.  Her declarations resonated: Jewish Lives Matter.

Devorah Halberstam, mother of Ari who was murdered for being Jewish in 1994, addressing the March Against Hate (photo: FirstOneThrough)

Other members of the Jewish community also addressed the crowd including David Harris, CEO of the AJC, Eric Goldstein, CEO of the UJA, and Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL.  They each sought to address the problem but without naming names.

They called out the noxious hatred from the alt-right, people who committed the horrible murders in Pittsburgh and Poway, and they also said that the problem was not limited to the right-wing fringe, as the attacks in Jersey City, Brooklyn and Monsey clearly showed.  But they did not say clearly that the alt-left was a problem, nor Black antisemitism nor Muslim antisemitism.  They simply noted antisemitism was not limited to the alt-right and also stemmed from some people in “minority groups.”

If the alt-right can be condemned, why can’t the other antisemites be called out?

It was good and proper that the leaders noted a certain “congresswoman from Michigan” who condemned the shootings in Jersey City as a work of white supremacists, who then had to delete the tweet when it was revealed that it was the work of Black people, and then never said another word on the subject, obviously showing she doesn’t give a damn about antisemitism.

It was appropriate that speakers condemned another certain congresswoman who said that the Jews buy off members of Congress to support the evil Jewish State.

While inelegant, the contortions to avoid naming their names (Tlaib and Omar) was perhaps smart: there is (perhaps) nothing to be gained by turning antisemitism into a partisan issue.  AJC’s Harris noted that antisemitism is not a Jewish issue but a non-Jewish issue in which Jews have a vested interest.  As such, it would not serve the cause to make it difficult for people of all political and religious backgrounds to advance the mission.

But why not clearly call out Jew-hatred instead of generic “hate” in the placards?  Why not denounce the alt-left as much as the alt-right for fanning the flames of Jew-hatred?  Why was it only an angry mother who was willing to state the obvious and call for action?

Jews have always been the most targeted group of hate crimes in the United States according to data from the FBI:  almost three times as likely to suffer a hate crime as an average Black person, and 2.4 times and 1.8 times as much as an average Muslim and LGBTQ person, respectively.  But historically the attacks against Jews were principally against property.  However, over the past five years, attacks against their persons have increased, and since 2018, murder.

So, at long last, the leaders of Jewish organizations held a march against the most common form of hatred, long after women held marches in D.C., gay people held sit ins, and Black people gathered in their Million Man March.  But there will be no manifesto like BlackLivesMatter nor direct finger-pointing at antisemitic Congresspeople to be stripped of their committees, antisemites on schools boards to be removed from office, nor condemnation for politicians who block funding for security at religious schools.

Because at the end of the day, the leadership of American Jewry’s alphabet soup want to play politely. They will demand nothing from politicians, just donations from Jews.  The leaders believe that most American Jews simply want to be left alone, to be anonymous; part of the wallpaper of the American scenery.  Modern Jews may worry about the spike in antisemitism but believe in their hearts it’s still only a problem for the broadcast devout.  As such, the leadership will ruffle few feathers and enjoy the thrill of hobnobbing with the powerful.

Secular Jews came out to defend the visibly ultra-Orthodox in a march of silent feet, still believing such hate will either dissipate on its own, or pass them over as they turn to their right under cover of whiteness or their left among their intersectional brethren with genuine genuflectional guilt.

Will it take more mayhem to demand more of ourselves and our leaders, or we will be wise enough to demand new leaders like Devorah Halberstam?

First published at First.One.Through.

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