In the shadow of the still-unfolding tragedy in Pittsburgh, I write today with grave concern for American Jews and indeed for the soul of America.
As President of the one of the oldest and most prominent organizations dedicated to the issues and interests of American Jews, I have written too many messages of condolence and solidarity to ethnic and religious groups that have been the targets of the increasing hatred and violence gripping our nation. I have issued too many unheeded warnings about creeping anti-Semitism in our politics and discourse.
Our nation is in danger.
The survival and success of the Jewish people to whom the American Jewish Congress is devoted is not an end it itself, it is but an example of the American idea of tolerance and diversity at work. It is this very idea that was threatened in Pittsburgh. It is this very idea that was threatened in Charlottesville, in Charleston, and everywhere unchecked racial and religious intolerance has spilled into its inescapable outcome: violence.
I call today for greater leadership in countering the dark forces coursing through America. This is not merely the task of Donald Trump, who as President bears great responsibility for the tone of our nation’s politics and who can yet have enormous positive influence over it. It also includes elements of the political right, which must reconcile their divisive rhetoric and policies with the pluralistic ideal we have inherited from our nation’s founders. It must also include figures on the so-called progressive left who are exacerbating divisions and turning against our American traditions and values, including taking avowedly anti-Israel positions. Between them all, Jews and the American ideal we represent are being threatened. The result is a dangerously intolerant tone that goes way beyond incivility, but into the potential to manifest into violence and for grievous harm to come to America herself. Armed security guards are not the answer. The violence we bear witness to is a symptom of a bigger, more insidious problem.
It is time for a national reckoning that can restore our commitment to one nation that is home to people of many beliefs and backgrounds. This is at once deeply personal and an intimate national process. We must all look within ourselves on how to live the American creed, and we must look to our leaders to help us fulfill our destiny as a shining example of tolerance, diversity, and human progress. The Jewish community in particular needs to recognize the seriousness of the threat before us, which can no longer be viewed as isolated spasms of ignorance and violence. We must come together and join with all people of peace and goodwill to fight this ugly, pervasive and growing stain on America’s character.
American Jewish Congress