This week, People of the Pod speaks with Jacob Kornbluh, the national politics reporter for Jewish Insider, as a wave of violent anti-Semitic attacks continues unabated in the United States.
Ranging from verbal harassment and physical assaults on the street, to shooting attacks such as the December 10 rampage on a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, which killed four people, the deadly violence recently culminated in a stabbing attack at a rabbi’s residence in Monsey, New York, where five Hasidic Jews were injured at a large gathering on the last night of Hanukkah, December 28.
The perpetrators of the attacks come from across the ideological spectrum, and include white supremacists, teens, minorities, and members of marginalized socioeconomic groups, further complicating attempts at finding a solution. Jewish communities around the country are being targeted, but in recent months the violence has been particularly focused on ultra-Orthodox Jews in the New York metropolitan area.
Weekly podcast People of the Pod is produced in partnership between the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and The Times of Israel to analyze global affairs through a Jewish lens.
“Things are definitely worse” today than ever before, Kornbluh tells co-host Seffi Kogen, explaining that the latest wave of assaults are not connected to standard crime levels, nor even to more commonplace anti-Semitism, such as vandalism and graffiti.
“Until recently we haven’t experienced a period — and especially in the past two, three months — where it’s been pretty tough on almost a daily basis, where the hatred towards Jews has become more violent,” Kornbluh says.
“If it’s a punch in the face, you can deal with it, there’s law enforcement to deal with it,” he says. “But what happens when somebody takes a gun, or a knife, like it happened last week and three weeks ago in Jersey City?”
Kornbluh says that local politicians and authorities, including mayors, governors, and police, express solidarity and heighten security in the days immediately following major attacks, “but what happens after four or five days, where everything is calm, everybody is back to normal. Nobody is out there monitoring if there’s increased police presence. Nobody is out there to see if the community is still feeling safe. And based on my knowledge, and me being in the community watching where there might be some heightened security for a short period, the community is not safe because they don’t know what’s next.”
State and city governments care about the ultra-Orthodox communities, Kornbluh says, but when it comes to allocating budgets for long-term security — and also for affordable housing and for education — “because we are different, because we have a different lifestyle, don’t assimilate… there is this feeling that the Jews can take care of themselves.”
Next, ahead of the closing curtain for the Yiddish-language “Fiddler on the Roof” production this weekend, co-host Manya Brachear Pashman speaks with Max Lewkowicz, director of the documentary “Fiddler: Miracle of Miracles,” about how the play became such a global sensation.
Lewkowicz says that his film studies why, over thousands of productions spanning more than five decades, audiences keep coming back to see this “great art.” Viewers can connect in a very special way with the universal themes of the show, Lewkowicz says.
“I’ve seen nuns crying at the show on Broadway. All over the world, in Japan and different locations, people connect to family, people connect to xenophobia, and racism, and women’s rights, and it seems like it never goes away because people relate to all the elements,” Lewkowicz says.
While wars may rage and political rifts can cause division on the national level, “we keep fighting as people and all that, but this is a way to connect to something that’s of substance,” he says.