Antisemitism Rears Its Head In Massachusetts

I’m going to ask your indulgence as I write about something upsetting, vaguely frightening, and entirely unrelated to international judicial assistance. An anonymous “multi-generational collective of activists and organizers” known as the Mapping Project has published a map of most of the key organizations in the organized Jewish community in Massachusetts. Lest you think this is just a friendly map, or a symbolic map, or a diagram of supposed connections between various groups, the authors want to be very clear: they have published a physical map with real locations for the purpose of disruption:

These entities exist in the physical world and can be disrupted in the physical world. We hope people will use our map to help figure out how to push back effectively.

Who is on the list? Yachad New England, an organization that provides services to Jews with disabilities and their families. The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, an umbrella group for synagogues of all streams of Judaism. Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the premier Jewish charity in Boston, which supports all kinds of worthy charities throughout New England. My children’s high school, Gann Academy, a pluralistic Jewish high school that, according to the anonymous authors, oppresses the downtrodden by giving students the opportunity to travel to Israel. And so on, down the list of more or less all the Jewish organizations and foundations you can name.

What is it that puts all these worthy organizations on the hit list? Zionism, which the anonymous authors define as “a form of white supremacy that supports the colonization of Palestine by a settler population.” And they are not just talking about right-wing Zionism: J Street, the left-wing organization, is on the hit list, too. Zionists in New England, according to the authors, “buy legitimacy and support from universities, use their influence to enable a range of oppressive agendas: supporting the Israeli army and Israeli settlements in Palestine; criminalizing Palestine liberation activists on college campuses; funding US police departments and cop unions; extracting wealth from colonized Puerto Rico; and advancing the privatization of US public schools.” In other words:

Antisemitism from Nazi Germany: "Hinter den Feindmaechten: der Jude."

The authors make much of the connections between Jewish organizations and local police departments without acknowledging the main reason for the close relationship: there are hundreds of antisemitic incidents at synagogues, Jewish community centers, and schools each year, including of course the hostage crisis at Beth Israel in Colleyville earlier this year, the stabbing of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski in Boston in 2021, the shooting at Chabad of Poway in 2019, and the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, as well as the many incidents of violence and harassment directed a visibly Jewish people just walking down the street in cities including New York. If you have not attended a synagogue service in recent years or been to a Jewish school, you would be shocked at the time, money, and resources the community spends protecting itself and at the infringement on what should be our freedom to gather together without having to lock the doors, hire police details, or take other extreme measures. We attended my son’s high school graduation this week and could see the heightened security due to the school’s inclusion on the list. It shouldn’t have to be this way.

The anonymous authors chose not to put synagogues on their list, probably in order to preserve the fiction that their anti-Zionism is not anti-Judaism or antisemitism. But if the criterion for inclusion is any degree of support of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the land of Israel, then the authors really should have listed more or less every synagogue and indeed, the vast majority of the Jewish community as individuals. Apparently we all are responsible for police brutality, victimization of Puerto Ricans, undermining the public school system, and in general using our “influence to enable a range of oppressive agendas.”

Not too long ago, blatant antisemitism like this—making a list of Jewish institutions and accusing them of responsibility for a wide set of social ills and of using their influence behind the scenes like malevolent puppetmasters—would be enough to relegate the speaker to the fringes. Today, I’m not so sure. As leaders throughout Massachusetts, from many members of our congressional delegation to many other civic leaders to the mainstream press, have strongly condemned the Mapping Project website as antisemitic and unacceptable, I suspect that there are many people who take the mainstream condemnation as a sure sign that the Mapping Project has got things right. And so the Jewish community must again focus physical security and worry about the safety of our schools and houses of worship, this time thanks to a map published by nameless “activists” who claim to be acting in the name of justice while repeating the most traditional and pernicious of antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories.

8 responses to “Antisemitism Rears Its Head In Massachusetts”

  1. Alexander Moskovits

    Unbelievable turn of events in America. Time to make Aliyah… Israel exists for a reason… to provide a safe homeland for Jews, even those who may unwittingly provoke anti-semitism in the Unsafe States of America. Best regards from Brazil.

    1. Ted Folkman

      Thanks for the comment, Alexander. I do not think your answer is the right one, as the American Jewish community, while it faces threats and challenges, is strong, vibrant, and worth preserving and fighting for.

  2. Eddie Varon Levy

    Dear Ted. As an American, and a Jew, I am deeply disturbed by what is happening all across our America and the world in terms of anti-Semitism. But let me tell you that these so called “Patriots” are neither. Nor Patriots , nor Americans as we know what our country stands for. These are zealots who will stop at nothing in order to achieve their goals. Well, neither will we. We stand behind you, as well as those Massachusetts great citizens who oppose and despise hatred, ill will and, the worst. United we stand we you. We, and I, specifically, are right behind you Ted. Warmest and kind regards my dear friend.

    1. Ted Folkman

      Thanks, Eddie, for the comment! These particular antisemites are not the ones who describe themselves as “patriots.” They’re the other ones, the ones who describe themselves as opposed to the state and to mainstream institutions.

  3. Robin Boylan

    Outrageous, sad and, sadly, predictable. It’s happening in France too. The bigots go underground for a while and then reemerge.

    1. Ted Folkman

      Thanks for the comment, Robin!

  4. kotodama

    First. “hit list”? What a joke. Even if these folks were “violent antisemites”—which, to be clear, I don’t agree they are (violent or otherwise)—I’m holding back laughter at the idea that they would make their so-called “hit list” available on the *global Internet* and publicly announce their intentions *to the entire world* in advance. Don’t be silly. We all know the only folks who do things like that are the Jan. 6 insurrectionists (and of course they also celebrate after the fact). But, if that’s what you genuinely believe about the supposed “hit list”, well, then, I know some lovely Brooklyn real estate with great views you might be interested in.

    Second. Is it seriously your position that nobody is allowed to criticize Israeli gov’t policy without risking being labeled an antisemite? If so, that’s quite absurd. Because presumably at least some of *Israel’s own citizens* do go around criticizing their own gov’t on occasion. Does that make them all raging antisemites too? Oh, and back in the good old US of A, criticizing a foreign gov’t’s policies is core protected First Amendment activity last I checked. That would include—although I’m in no way shape or form comparing this group to WBC—demonstrating about those policies on public land, as held in Phelps v. Snyder almost unanimously save a single Justice (or “Justice” in Alito’s case). (PS I am not a First Amendment absolutist either.)

    Third. You reel off a list of recent antisemitic incidents. Four of them are specifically identified, so I’ll address those. Certainly, those incidents were horrific. Nobody disputes that. But listing them is also a complete non-sequitur. That’s because non of them had anything to do with this group—or similar kinds of groups—whatsoever. The Colleyville gunman was a single, disturbed individual. Likewise in the Boston incident. And the Poway shooter was a neo-Nazi claiming superiority of the “European race”. Likewise the Pittsburgh shooter, another RW extremist. That’s quite different don’t you agree? So, you don’t do your credibility any favors bringing up totally unrelated incidents. Or people would read this post and think you’re unable to distinguish between mere protesting/demonstrating and mass murder. You don’t want that, right? Anyway, if you’re actually serious about taking steps to prevent these kinds of incidents—and I of course hope you are—the solution is so painfully obvious I shouldn’t even need to mention it: *gun control*. *Tons* of gun control.

    Fourth. Relatedly, you damage your credibility further and forfeit any semblance of seriousness when you harp over nonevents like this one and utterly ignore the *actual antisemitism going on in plain sight*. The latest example being that lovely human specimen, Carl Paladino. Recall he was previously a *major* party—the *Republican* party—candidate for governor in NY, which of course is the *fourth largest* state in the country. Oh, and he got 33% of the vote, so you do the math on how many people seem to like his thinking. Paladino’s also running for Congress now. Oh, and he’s endorsed by Elise Stefanik, who just happens to be *chair of the House Republican Conference*. Funny, it seems like not a week or so goes by without some Republican politician or candidate gushing over how downright groovy Hitler was—always totally unprompted of course. And we can hardly forget Dotard complimenting the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville as “very fine people”. But yet I don’t see you asking for “indulgence” to discuss any concerns on this blog whenever that happens. So, I have to conclude you think it’s all just fine and dandy. (To be clear, I don’t presume to dictate what you write about here. I’m just pointing out the obvious disparity.) And if you think Republicans are the “good guys” because they “support Israel” then remember this: (1) it’s only because the RW Christians want to hasten the Rapture, when—and this is kind of a key point!—Jews will be converted; and (2) more Jews moving to Israel means (like, duh!) *fewer* in the US. And, circling back to my third and previous point, Republicans are of course all about “teh gunz”.

    And, for the record (I’ve probably said it before though), I am a fellow member of the tribe. But you’ll forgive me if I don’t get “upset[] or vaguely frighten[ed]” about this kind of imaginary antisemitism. That’s because I’m too busy worrying about the real thing. Also, four important points in closing: (1) I have nothing to do with this group, in fact, TIL they even exist; (2) I don’t necessarily agree with their aims; and (3) even if I did agree, I don’t necessarily think their means are a particularly effective way of accomplishing them; but (4) I’m perfectly capable of separating such opinions about them from whether I think they’re antisemitic—and if tomorrow they jumped on the “Hitler sure was a swell dude” bandwagon, well, then, I’d be first in line to denounce them.

    1. Ted Folkman

      Kotodama, thanks for the comment. I’m glad you’ve felt free to disagree with me. I don’t want to hijack my own blog with a very long discussion, but let me respond to a few of your points.

      1. You write that you don’t get “upset or vaguely frightened” about this sort of thing. That’s okay, but I can assure you that this map, with the addresses of Jewish institutions and the names of officers and trustees, has the full attention of the Jewish community in Boston, particularly among people like me whose children are students at the school on the list.
      2. You’re 100% right about the danger of right-wing antisemitism. Everyone agrees about that. But I don’t agree with “whataboutism.” I’ve spent plenty of time and energy in Jewish organizations working on the problem of right-wing antisemitism, but when a left-wing group is antisemitic, we need to be able to say so without addressing the other kinds of antisemitism that are out there. To your question why I’ve taken the time to write about this and not about other instances of antisemitism, I’ll say that this one hits much closer to home than the other incidents I mentioned, because it is aimed at my local community. I have, though, written about antisemitism on the right, for example here, as well as about other kinds of prejudice from the right, for example, anti-Muslim bias.
      3. Of course criticism of the Israeli government and its policies is fine. Neither criticism of Israel nor criticism of the idea of Zionism, though, explains why one would include run-of-the-mill Jewish charities that aid the disabled, or Jewish day schools, or the the Synagogue Council, unless what you’re really saying is that the problem isn’t the Israeli government or political Zionism, but the Jews, wielding their pernicious influence behind the scenes, which is precisely what the website does. And it seems to me that if you think J Street is a pernicious agent of Jewish influence, as the anonymous authors do, then you are committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, which, again, is, to me, beyond the pale.
      4. I hold a lot of views that are probably not that popular, so I don’t take any issue with you taking a minority view here. But I think it’s a good idea, when you are taking an unpopular view, just to consider whether, in fact, “everybody’s wrong but me,” or whether you might have overlooked something. Here, I think you should consider that the condemnation of this website has come from everyone from Ayanna Pressley to the ADL. If you think Ayanna Presley is wrong to say that the website unacceptably targets Jews, that’s fine, but just be cognizant of the very wide spectrum of people who disagree with you here.
      5. Always happy to have your comments!

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