'Jews, Jews, Jews' [Editorial]

Our view: Anti-Semitic incidents are on the decline nationally, but unfortunately, they still persist

September 26, 2014

In Yiddish you might call the perpetrator a paskudnik. In the street parlance of Baltimore, the term "dirt bag" comes to mind — as do some descriptions less appropriate for polite conversation. In any case, the driver who shot at several pedestrians with an air rifle or BB gun Thursday afternoon from his car yelling "Jews, Jews, Jews," according to Baltimore County Police, is clearly a moron.

Thursday was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which, along with Yom Kippur, is part of the High Holy Days, a time for introspection, repentance and atonement, an irony obviously lost on the gunman. Those who were taunted and fired upon were walking along Old Pimlico Road near Green Summit Road. Nobody was injured, but police later found a hole in a nearby window.

Thankfully, incidents of reported anti-Semitism are in decline in this country — down 19 percent last year to one of the lowest levels recorded since 1979, according to the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit — but that doesn't mean the public should not be sensitive to the problem, acknowledge that these awful events still happen and recognize how traumatic they can be for the victims.

Vandalism, painted swastikas on buildings, harassment, assaults, there's still no shortage of hate crimes directed as Jews. The Internet has given rise to a particularly unpleasant brand of mindless hostility, threats, taunts and outrageous lies that probably don't show up in government statistics or even ADL reports but are insufferable nonetheless.

Let's set the record straight. This does not reflect how the people of Baltimore, Baltimore County or Maryland feel about Jews or Judaism. It is with considerable pride that the people of this state celebrate our Jewish heritage, from Gustav Brunn, the inventor of "Old Bay" seasoning, to Dr. Bessie Moses who opened the state's first birth control clinic. This region has welcomed waves of Jewish immigrants from Central Europe, Russia, Iran and elsewhere, and we have benefited immensely from their presence here, from the Cone sisters and their enduring art collection to those pillars of the business and philanthropic community named Blaustein, Hoffberger, Meyerhoff and Rosenbloom.

Even for non-Jews, the faith and culture is part of our shared identity. The Baltimore-Washington area is home to more than 276,000 people who identify themselves as Jewish. Within the U.S., only New York, Los Angeles and Philadelphia can claim more. Baltimore would simply not be Baltimore without Corned Beef Row, the Jewish Museum of Maryland or the charitable work of The Associated.

Anti-Semitism may always be with us, but it should always be condemned whenever it's seen crawling out of the gutter. To ignore such hatred here or abroad might suggest a tacit acceptance of it. Baltimore knows bigotry in all its forms. As Maryland's Sen. Paul Sarbanes once observed, "When anti-Semitism persists, the well being of all our people are at risk."

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