During the intermediate days of Sukkot, young Chabad Ḥasidim, off from school or yeshiva, can be seen on street corners asking passersby if they are Jewish and, if the answer is yes, offering them a chance to perform the ritual waving of the four species, an integral part of the holiday. Ben Cohen, on the streets of Manhattan’s heavily Jewish Upper West Side, witnessed a woman berating one such ḥasidic boy, who appeared about thirteen:
Once I was in earshot, the first thing I heard her say was, “there’s enough anti-Semitism around without you people making it worse.” I hadn’t planned to interject, but I couldn’t let a remark like that (“you people”) go unanswered. So I faced her and said, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but you should know that Jews are never responsible for causing anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is a non-Jewish problem.”
Arching her eyebrows at me, her first response was to say, “I’m Jewish.” [And then], her commentary became a whole lot worse. The young boy she was yelling at wasn’t wearing a mask, and this was the source of her displeasure. Was I not aware, she asked me, that “these kids are coming up here from these communities in Brooklyn where none of them are vaccinated and they don’t wear masks?”
Leave aside that this encounter took place in the open air and the ḥaredi kid was standing about ten feet away from the woman, so it wasn’t technically necessary for him to wear a mask. What she articulated, as I told her directly, was a malicious lie. . . . [Moreover], the blanket assertion that “none of them” have been vaccinated, that “none of them” wear masks, and that they shouldn’t be walking around the city freely as a consequence, is rooted in prejudice, not reasoned appraisal of the facts.
That a Jewish individual should react in this way is shocking and certainly heartbreaking. The woman’s willingness to use ostensibly reasonable concerns about public health as an excuse to berate a child in public was an unmistakable sign that she was driven by a primal dislike of ḥaredi Jews, rather than a desire to bolster that community’s acceptance of the vaccine; . . . in her view, these Ḥaredim were outsiders who had taken over the streets, poisoning a close-knit community in the process and thereby making life unnecessarily difficult for those Jews who are, well, much more like everyone else.
The vast majority of violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S., it should be noted, are directed at ḥaredi Jews.
Read more on JNS: https://www.jns.org/opinion/on-visible-and-invisible-jews/