Anyone who reads my columns regularly know that I rarely agree with my fellow columnist Moshe Hill. However, his analysis of Chuck Schumer’s inaction in the column “Cowardice, Thy Name is Chuck Schumer” is spot on.
Schumer and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy are making the same mistake, thinking that kowtowing to a portion of the base of the party will save them from any challenge. As Hill noted, Schumer is afraid of the progressives, and in particular a primary challenge from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. McCarthy is afraid of former President Trump and his diehard supporters. He wants to remain the Republican Party’s leader in the House. He does not want to become “Liz Cheneyed” if he speaks out. Thus, they keep quiet trying not to offend these groups. Instead of helping them, it makes them look weak. By appearing to be weak, it makes it more likely that what they are afraid of will happen.
They should learn from the other two leaders, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. They have spoken their minds when necessary, knowing that there may be pushback from part of their respective parties. Nevertheless, they have been able to keep together the parts of the parties when it is necessary. They come across as strong principled leaders. That is why even though McConnell has criticized the former president much more forcefully than anything McCarthy has said, McConnell will remain the Republican Party leader in the Senate and there is nothing Trump can do to change that. In contrast, McCarthy will be gone as Republican Party leader in the House of Representatives after 2022 midterms, to be replaced by a more loyal Trumpian such as Jim Jordan or Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Now to the main the portion of the column. We are all a little shaken up about the spike of antisemitic incidents, especially the brazen attack on Joseph Borgen in broad daylight in Times Square. Two individuals have been arrested for attacking him. Hopefully, they will get the rest of them. One of them, Waseem Awawdeh, after being let out on bail, reportedly said he would do it again if given the chance and was hailed by some as a hero. Nevertheless, it is important to keep everything in a historical perspective.
In the 1940s and 1950s, when my father was living on the Lower East Side, it was common for Jews to be beaten up. Someone who went to a yeshiva back then told me that he was fortunate he could outrun those trying to attack him, but most yeshiva boys were not so lucky. Each ethnic group had their own gang, including the Jews. The purpose of the Jewish gang was to protect Jews who were getting beat up and to make sure those who did beat up Jews got the message so that they would do not it again. Therefore, if the guys who had attacked Borgen had done so seventy years ago in the Jewish area of the Lower East Side, they would have had the smiles knocked off their faces in a New York minute. It would be the last time they touched a Jewish boy. I am not condoning violence. Violence begets violence. Even back then, what resulted was that each group ended beating up members of the other. Now in certain areas they settle disputes with weapons, with many innocent people killed.
Those days of Jews being attacked en masse on the Lower East Side are fortunately gone. There is no need for a Jewish gang on the Lower East Side. However, there is an uptick in antisemitic attacks. We now see that the claim “you can be anti-Israel but not be antisemitic” is fraudulent. It is a wakeup call that we cannot take anything for granted. The Jewish community needs to speak out. We need to keep the pressure on the legal system and the politicians to understand that Jewish lives matter. That is why rallies such as in Cedarhurst Park last week are important. Politicians who engage in antisemitic rhetoric, even the self-hating Jews, need to be condemned no matter which party they belong to. We cannot let the antisemites dictate how we live our lives. If we spend every day in fear, then they will have won.