Since Hamas first fired rockets two weeks ago, the ADL has reported a 75% percent rise in antisemitic attacks in the U.S. compared to the prior two-week period. Last year, antisemitic incidents in the United States hit a four-decade high, with reported incidents of harassment increasing by 6%, vandalism by 19%, and assault by a massive 56%.
These statistics, this data… the numbers are shocking. But it must not be forgotten that behind each number is a person.
One week ago, in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, the victims of one such antisemitic assault were two Jewish teenagers. In 1939, in Lodz, Poland, the victim was Roman Kent.
Roman Kent was ten years old when the Germans invaded Poland, and he and countless others were imprisoned in the Lodz ghetto. He was sixteen when he finally walked free. And after surviving three different camps, after he and the few remaining members of his family were finally liberated by the U.S. Army in 1945, Kent spent the rest of his life tirelessly telling the story of what happened.
Roman Kent died last week in New York at the age of 92.
He will be remembered for many things, among them are working to secure compensation from the German government for fellow survivors and producing the critically acclaimed 1980 documentary Children of the Holocaust, parts of which were filmed in Auschwitz. Kent described the film to The Triumphant Spirit author and JEWISHcolorado Advancement Officer Renée Rockford like this: “At the beginning, there were children, and after the murder of 1.5 million children, there were only ashes.”
The juxtaposition of Roman Kent’s death with recent violent attacks on Jews in cities nationwide underscores the point: antisemitism, insidious in all its forms, leads to suffering and death.
This week’s Torah portion, Beha’alotcha, describes the making and use of the two silver trumpets whose purpose is to summon Israel. With a long blast from both trumpets, all of Israel shall assemble. A long blast with one, and the leaders shall assemble.
The trumpets’ call has been sounded. We are summoned to our work. We cannot and must not rest from our fight against antisemitism, prejudice, and injustice. Heed this call. Each of you is needed in this trying hour.