Chuck Schumer: What American Jews Fear Most

Nov 29, 2023 | Read Now, Voices

Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, is the Senate majority leader.

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The solidarity that Jewish Americans initially received from our fellow citizens in the aftermath of Oct. 7 has since waned, drowned out by other, more disturbing voices, even from some we considered allies, while hate crimes against Jews have skyrocketed.

Today, too many Americans are exploiting arguments against Israel and leaping toward a virulent antisemitism. The normalization and intensifying of this rise in hate is the danger many Jewish people fear most.

Since Oct. 7, Jewish-owned businesses that have nothing to do with Israel have been boycotted and vandalized. Jewish students on college campuses have been harassed and assaulted with alarming frequency. A Jewish high school teacher in Queens told me about being forced to hide in a locked office from student protesters who were demanding that she be fired because she attended a rally supporting Israel.

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What happened last week at the Queens high school is an example of crossing that threshold. Walking out of school to march in support of Palestinians is completely legitimate. But forcing a Jewish teacher to hide because she had attended a rally in support of Israel is antisemitism, pure and simple.

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Take my own family story. Only in America could an exterminator’s son grow up to be the first Jewish party leader in the Senate.

But many of my family members elsewhere met more tragic ends.

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Of course, criticizing the Israeli government is not inherently antisemitic. Over the years, I have vehemently disagreed with many of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies, especially his administration’s encouragement of settlements in the West Bank, gravely harming prospects for a two-state solution, which I support. I have also been among those who have said that Israel must act according to international law and that humanitarian assistance for Palestinians is critical.

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America has always been exceptional. But when it matters most, are we still a nation that can defy the course of human history, where the Jewish people have been ostracized, expelled and massacred over and over again?

I believe the answer can and must be a resounding yes.

And I will do everything in my power — as Senate majority leader, as a Jewish American, as a citizen of a free society, as a human being — to make it so.

View the New York Times Op-Ed By Senator Schumer