Jewish Journal

Crime and Spin

by  David A. Lehrer

October 29, 2009 | 6:49 pm

Today is one of those days where events coincide to remind us of where we are in America and where our society is.

I woke up this morning to the troubling news that the Adat Yeshurun synagogue in North Hollywood was attacked by a gunman who wounded two members of the temple on their way to morning services.

Arriving at work, after listening to repeated radio news reports that no one yet knew anything about the motivations of the gunman and that the two victims were lightly wounded, I read the just released ADL study of anti-Semitism in America (“anti-Semitic propensities are at a historic low since 1964, matching the previous all time low in 1998”).

I then watched the press conference outside Adat Yeshurun where a who’s who of LA leadership gathered to condemn the morning’s shooting and alert the community. The mayor made clear that the facts were unclear and whether or not a hate crime had occurred was yet to be determined.

What struck me as odd was that the Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Abe Cooper—who made a bow in the direction of the uncertainty of the situation—couldn’t resist warning about the danger of terror in economically hard times. Similarly, a spokesman for the ADL (prior to the press conference) warned that Jews and Jewish institutions should be alert to the dangers that the shooting presented.

It never hurts to be alert, but it is striking that the major figures in LA politics and Jewish community leadership were explicitly and implicitly warning about the implications of a crime about which they knew very little—- including the key unknown of what animated the gunman to act.

After working in the Jewish community for nearly thirty years, I am absolutely convinced that this is one community that does not need to be urged to be “on alert” or to be “concerned about potential threats”—-in our post-Holocaust times the risk of ignoring even hints of danger is one lesson that has been learned and learned well (see Rob Eshman’s opinion piece of this week). 

If there is any message that should have been conveyed to the Jewish community, it is that until more information is known, there is no need for concern or fear or expectation of other criminal acts. That message should have been reinforced by noting that anti-Semitism in America is at historic lows and, barring evidence to the contrary, the assumption should be that this morning’s shooting is an anomaly—-end stop.

In fact, we should take this opportunity to recount our blessings; we are a fortunate people in a blessed country.

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