New York Knife Attack A Reminder For Southern Oregon Jewish Communities Of Growing US Anti-Semitism

Dec 31, 2019

An anti-Semitic attack that took place at a rabbi’s home in New York in the final days of Hanukkah has reverberated around Jewish communities, including in southern Oregon.

Saturday’s knife attack at a Hasidic rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York left five people injured. The incident happened far from Havurah Shir Hadash, a progressive “Jewish renewal community” in Ashland, but it’s a reminder of the growth in anti-Semitic acts around the country in recent years.

“It’s a shock but it’s not surprising,” says Rabbi David Zaslow.

Havurah Shir Hadash is one southern Oregon synagogue where leaders have increased security in recent years, Zaslow says. Their precautions have included hosting active shooter trainings and adding camera systems and armed guards.

“I’ve been in Ashland for almost 50 years – 49 years now – and I would never, never, never have imagined the need for armed security guards at a Jewish religious service here in southern Oregon,” Zaslow says.  

In 2018, 57.8% of hate crimes “motivated by religious bias” across the country were anti-Jewish, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Hate crimes towards followers of Islam were the next highest at 14.5%. The Anti-Defamation League documented two incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism in southern Oregon last year.

Rabbi Avi Zwiebel represents the Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon. Zwiebel has not witnessed increases in anti-Semitism himself but says a national rise in hate crimes has caused their synagogue to take security measures seriously.

“It’s no more a luxury, it’s a necessity, unfortunately.”

However, he says, members should respond to the New York attack not by hiding their religion but by being proud of it.

“Obviously we have to take the protocols to ensure the proper security but it’s not about being cowards and hiding our Jewishness,” Zwiebel says. “On the contrary, like the Hanukkah story, [it’s about] being a light and sharing those values of light with others to counteract the darkness.”