WASHINGTON — The U.S. bishops are responding with solidarity and concern for the Jewish community, following a surge in anti-Semitic actions in recent weeks.
“On behalf of the bishops and people of the Catholic Church, as the chairman of the bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, I want to express our deep sympathy, solidarity and support to our Jewish brothers and sisters,” said Bishop Mitchell Rozanski of Springfield, Massachusetts, in a press release.
“I wish to offer our deepest concern, as well as our unequivocal rejection of these hateful actions,” Bishop Rozanski continued.
On Feb. 20, more than 150 headstones were damaged in University City, Missouri, at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. Just a week later, more than 100 headstones were found similarly knocked over at the Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery in Philadelphia.
Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia was “deeply saddened” by the vandalism at Mount Carmel Jewish Cemetery and called for “prayerful solidarity with the families of those whose final resting places have been disturbed.”
“As a community, we must speak out to condemn inflammatory messages and actions that serve only to divide, stigmatize and incite prejudice,” the archbishop continued. “We must continually and loudly reject attempts to alienate and persecute the members of any religious tradition. Rather, as members of diverse faith and ethnic communities throughout the region, we must stand up for one another and improve the quality of life for everyone by building bridges of trust and understanding.”
No suspects have been named in either case, but the damage has reached hundreds of thousands of dollars.
More than 50 bomb threats targeting the Jewish community have also been reported across the country since the beginning of the year, including scares at Jewish community centers in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Milwaukee.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, violent anti-Semitic actions soared in 2015 and continued into 2016, with increased online anti-Semitic harassment.
Leaders and officials have denounced the surge in anti-Semitic actions, including words from President Donald Trump last week, who said the recent attacks on the Jewish community were “horrible and are a painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.”
Mayor Jim Kenney of Philadelphia also spoke out, saying that “hate is not permissible in Philadelphia” and that the perpetrators “will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” according to The New York Times.
Echoing these sentiments, Bishop Rozanski promised that “the Catholic Church stands in love with the Jewish community in the current face of anti-Semitism.”
Quoting Pope Francis, he pointed to the dangers of the anti-Semitic attacks, linking them to acts of dehumanization, which is most notably seen in hatred towards neighbors.
However, the Springfield bishop also voiced hope that these attacks could be an opportunity for neighborly love to shine brightly.
“But here we also find an opportunity: that the light of the love of neighbor may illuminate the Earth with its stunning brightness, like a lightning bolt in the dark; that it may wake us up and let true humanity burst through with authentic resistance, resilience and persistence.”
“I encourage everyone to remember their neighbor, to find the opportunities to be lights of resistance, resilience and persistence during these contentious times, especially with all our brothers and sisters of faith.”