2017-02-23 / Editorials

Nation’s ugly mood turns even our own community sour

The year is off to a difficult start as we see a nation convulsed by anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic behavior: The Islamophobia rooted in a desire to effect changes in national immigration law, the hatred of Jews rooted in centuries of learned behavior that even we as a modern, forward-thinking people cannot seem to get past. Perhaps it’s all tied to the current political environment, perhaps not, but whatever it is, it’s ugly, pure and simple.

The focus of this writing is on the spate of recent anti-Semitic activity across the country that includes the destruction of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri and bomb threats against Jewish community centers elsewhere.

Also within the past three weeks, swastika graffiti was found in Newbury Park, and several young men were captured on surveillance video placing hateful, anti-Semitic messages on cars and homes in Oak Park, including one home that serves as the Jewish Chabad.

It’s unconscionable, unbelievable even, for this to occur in our own, supposedly highly educated, community. Yet somehow, we’re not surprised. The Chabad was targeted by similar hate in 2010 when the small religious center announced plans to expand its operations.

You’d think lessons were learned, but apparently not. Have we learned nothing in the past 100 years?

In today’s world, social media has become the new purveyor of hate. The Acorn learned this week that a boy at Agoura High School and his sister at Lindero Canyon Middle School, both Jews, were on the receiving end of ugly jokes targeting their religion.

Several kids at the high school had been sending text messages using graphic, anti- Semitic memes. Some were caught and disciplined, but the why behind this childish behavior remains unanswered. Maybe we’ll never know why kids feel compelled to be so hurtful. Immaturity, perhaps, or maybe just a lack of good hard discipline.

Our schools are on the frontline in the war against bullies and other intolerants, and for the most part they do a good job. But messages of love and acceptance cannot be overstated. In middle school, especially, the programs and classes devoted to the fight against bigotry should be repeated over and over . . . and over.

A letter sent to the Acorn Wednesday by a group of leaders from local religious organizations stated, “It’s not just Jews who are being targeted. According the Southern Poverty Law Center, between Nov. 9 and Dec. 12, 2016, there were over 1,000 bias-related harassment and intimidation incidents around the country. We decry them all, and invite others to condemn these actions as well. Many of our ancestors came to this country seeking freedom and security. Sadly, our sense of security is threatened today.”

Parents, teachers, local leaders—let us start by making absolutely sure that our children know there are certain lines that should never be crossed when they meet people of a different faith and color. Begin the conversation today, right now, and never let it die.

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