Two anti-Semitic events involving children that hit Australia in the past week are just the tip of the iceberg showing a worldwide boost in anti-Semitic sentiment, crimes and threats.
The first was a 5-year-old who was revealed to be subject to anti-Semitic bullying at his school’s bathrooms regularly for months. It reached such scales where the boy would wet his pants in class rather than use the bathroom to avoid the ridicule. All it took was his classmates finding out that he was circumcised for the abuse to begin, which included calling him a “Jewish cockroach.”
At another school, a 12-year-old Jewish student was taken to the park by his classmates, who forced him to bend over and kiss the shoes of a Muslim boy. Of course, the act was photographed and spread on social media. In the months following, the child suffered from anti-Semitic slander, physical assaults, threats and curses. Beyond an injury to his face, which ended with a visit to the hospital, the child began to suffer from acute anxiety.
In both cases, the schools denied involvement in the incidents, and faced minor backlash from the Jewish children’s parents and Jewish organizations. Both Jewish children eventually left the schools.
Despite these events coming to light in the media, there is no guarantee of a safeguard from future such events. We are left with no reason to believe that other Jewish children won’t face similar or worse bullying.
The 2018 Anti-Semitism Report of the Kantor Center reported an unprecedented 59% increase in anti-Semitism cases in Australia compared to the previous year. The cases included phone and email harassment and threats, verbal abuse, vandalism, and anti-Semitic posters and graffiti spreading in the public sphere unimpeded.
These are just some of the cases. Most cases are not reported at all, and Jews continue encountering harassment and curses on a regular basis whether on their way to synagogues on Shabbat, whether at Jewish festivals or other Jewish events.
It’s no wonder that Jews and Israelis living in Australia are starting to feel uncomfortable, to say the least.
I have quite a few students and friends there. Debbie and Avi are part of a large Jewish and Israeli community, living in Bondi Beach in Sydney. Debbie stated that she shivered when she saw the pews of Sydney’s northwestern neighborhoods covered with swastikas and graffiti that call for killing Jews.
Aviva and her family also migrated to Australia a decade ago in her work for a small town near Byron Bay, which has a large community of Israelis. One day when Aviva was sitting in a little café, as she usually did, she was surprised to discover a swastika adorning her coffee. When she asked the waiter what this meant, he explained that Hitler was basically pursuing peace and equality, and his ideas had good intentions.
Apparently, even in a stable and tolerant democracy, in which Jews are free to maintain their beliefs and customs, there is reason to fear. Again, we find that Jews have nowhere else in the world to escape and shake off their role.
The wisdom of Kabbalah explains that Jews have a special role in the human puzzle: “Israel’s purpose is to unite the entire world into one family,” writes Rabbi Kook. The people of Israel are a special people who rose with the common agreement to love one another and live “as one man with one heart.”
The method of uniting the Jewish people, which can also unite humanity, has been instilled in us Jews. Therefore, it is our duty to use it, and to bring about the long-awaited union between us—to set an example for a humanity that is suffering from increasing division and hatred. But as long as we continue letting ourselves get driven into conflict with each other, failing to transcend our egos and connect with each other, anti-Semitism intensifies and gives us a hard reminder that we have a role.
The only way to stop and even reverse the rising trend of anti-Semitism around the world is if we Jews realize our unity above our growing divisions, and to spread this unifying tendency to the world.
Featured in The Times of Israel