For both Jews and non-Jews, Jewish community centers are community hubs. They host art classes and sports programs for children and adults with aims to create a unified community around both secular and religious interests. JCCs are inclusive, peaceful and huge assets to any community they provide for. But recent waves of anti-Semitism have targeted Jewish community centers specifically. According to CNN, bomb threats have been issued to over 100 JCCs across 33 U.S. states and 2 Canadian provinces in recent months.
The threats, too, have come in waves: 15 Jewish community centers and schools received bomb threats on January 9, and ensuing series of threats occurred on January 18th, January 31st, and February 20th. On this past Monday, February 27th, the threat count rose to 100 when another 31 threats were called in to 23 JCCs and schools.
Despite his consistent validation of the fear-based hate currently taking over our country, President Donald Trump chose to address the issue in his speech to Congress on Tuesday: 'Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms.'
This seems more than a little ironic, as the Trump administration thrives on pro-white, pro-Christian fearmongering at the direct cost of the safety of religious minorities. The New York Times article 'The Rage of White, Christian America,' published this November, explains that 74% of white evangelical protestants believe things have changed for the worse since the 1950s (when Jim Crow was legal and America was a majority white, Christian nation). 81% of white evangelical protestants voted for Trump. In the case of both retrograde ideals and voter turnout, the percentages represented by angry white Christians are far larger than those represented by any other demographic — even those of Latinx, black, and millennial voters.
The incidents Trump referred to in the Joint Address — the vandalism of Jewish headstones in cemeteries in Philadelphia and St. Louis and the shooting of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Alok Madasani—are part of a much more threatening pattern of hate against religious and ethnic minorities. Trump's campaign success and eventual election is thanks in large part to rhetoric that explicitly incentivizes it.
BBC's report on the February 22nd Kansas shooting of Mr. Kuchibhotla and Madasani, both 32-year-old Indian men, details that the assailant shouted 'Get out of my country!' as he fired at them. Kuchibhotla died as a result of his injuries. Also according to BBC, Indian students in Hyderabad, a major IT hub in southern India, link Kuchibhotla's murder to support for a new U.S. bill designed to limit the entry of highly skilled workers into the country. Almost 70% of these work visas go to Indians, a large portion of whom are IT professionals. Like Trump's travel ban, the bill is a poorly-veiled attempt to target non-white, non-Christian immigrants.
In response to the vandalism of between 75 and 100 tombstones in Philadelphia's Mt. Carmel cemetery, Det. Jim Reynolds of the police department's Northeast Detectives Division told CNN that although cemeteries are located on all four corners of the intersection at Mt. Carmel, no vandalism occurred at the three Christian cemeteries. 'As far as we know it's limited to the Jewish cemetery.'
Olivia Loperfido is an English and psychology major at New York University's College of Arts and Sciences, and the junior editor of NYU's Mercer Street (2017-'18). She enjoys spending time with her dogs and tortoise, watching RuPaul's Drag Race, and contacting her state representatives. Follow her on Instagram here and contact her via email here.