An AJT Opinion Piece
We were little more than a month past the horrible, anything-but-random killings in Paris, spread across about 50 hours, when we saw a repeat in miniature in the space of 10 hours in Copenhagen: first, the murderous attack targeting a cartoonist who has made fun of Mohammed, then the inevitable targeting of a Jewish institution, then the death of the suspected killer in a police shootout.
The toll in the Danish attacks Feb. 14 is small compared with the 17 people slain in the French shootings, but the terror and the targets are the same.
One man died in a hail of automatic gunfire at a discussion of art and blasphemy that featured Lars Vilks, a Danish cartoonist who drew death threats in 2007 for drawing Islam’s prophet with the body of a dog. A 37-year-old Jewish man, Dan Uzan, was shot in the head and died that night in an attack on a synagogue where he was serving as a volunteer guard while people inside celebrated a girl become a bat mitzvah.
Uzan thus joins Yoav Hattab, Yohan Cohen, Philippe Braham and Francois-Michel Saada, the four Jewish men killed at a Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris on Jan. 9, on an ever-growing list of people who lost their lives in Europe simply for being Jewish.
Make no mistake: Their killers found them because they had the nerve to live public Jewish lives and spend time at Jewish institutions, but those institutions were just targets of convenience. The killers would have been just as happy to gun them down if they had hidden their Judaism and cowered at home, for their crime was not practicing a religion; it was being Jewish.
In the latest iteration of anti-Semitism, as described by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks at Young Israel of Toco Hills only three nights before the Copenhagen killings, a growing extremist element in Islam has adopted the attitude that sent Alfred Dreyfus to Devil’s Island in 1895 and 6 million Jews to their deaths in the Holocaust: that Jewishness is a racial, ethnic identity that is inherently evil and whose only cure is death.
Paris and Copenhagen are not the last times Jews will be slain in Europe for the one crime for which they have no defense: being Jewish.
Jewish institutions will increase security, but the attack on the Copenhagen synagogue, where two policeman on guard duty were wounded, shows that security can at best minimize the toll of attacks, not prevent them, because the killers are willing to trade their lives for Jewish ones.
Our hope comes not from European governments, which have proved themselves too slow and too addled by denial to protect their citizens, but from the more than 3,000 Jewish teens celebrating Shabbat together more than 4,500 miles away from Copenhagen during the attacks Feb. 14.
Those teens came together at the BBYO and NFTY conventions in downtown Atlanta simply because they love being Jewish. It is who they are, and while the anti-Semites might scare them, those 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds are already wise enough to know that the answer is not to cower and hide.
They are, as they repeatedly proclaimed, stronger together.
From Israel to Europe to the United States and everywhere else we live, we will remain targets for being Jewish, and we will endure and come out stronger as a people by being Jewish.