A troubling incident recently occurred at Target Junction, at 1598 Flatbush Avenue, near Brooklyn College. A frum man reported that his wife went to check out while he visited the restroom. As he exited, a fellow shopper threw an elbow into his face without apparent reason, breaking his nose in two places as he shouted at him. Furthermore, he claims that the pleas for help made to the nearby store security and other staff fell on deaf ears. Review of the store footage by the NYPD confirmed this assault was unprovoked. The assailant left the store unchallenged and was not apprehended.
In the interest of balanced and fair reporting, I contacted Jenna Reck, the senior communications director and a spokesperson for Target Corporation. She shared the following statement:
“Target stands firmly against anti-Semitism and we don’t tolerate violence of any kind in our stores. Our team didn’t see the incident as it happened but responded quickly once they heard the victim fall to the floor. They provided first aid to him, confirmed that several guests in the area had called 911 and then waited with the victim until paramedics arrived. Another team member asked the assailant to leave the store, and once he had left, went to watch the security video to confirm what happened. When NYPD arrived, our team showed them the security video of the assault and we’ve since shared a copy of it with the NYPD for their investigation. Our team members acted in accordance with our policy, which is to investigate and share findings with law enforcement rather than apprehend a suspect who is violent. However, we want Target to be a safe and welcoming place for all, and deeply regret that this incident happened in our store.”
I have written in this column about the rise in anti- Semitism, especially here in New York. For the last few years, the number of incidents has nearly doubled every single year. The New York City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes (OPHC) was established in 2019 to help prevent and respond to these types of incidents. Last year the NYPD announced it would add hate crimes to its Compstat reporting, which tracks different types of crime in the city. According to the NYPD Hate Crimes Dashboard, the single largest percentage of hate crimes in New York City continues to be directed against Jewish people. Similarly, the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program echoes these trends of increasing bias against Jews across the United States.
This month we celebrate Purim and read the Book of Esther. The holiday commemorates our rescue and deliverance from the genocidal plans of Haman. Megillas Esther (3:6) documents Haman’s intent to wipe out the entire Jewish people specifically. This may be the earliest recorded case of anti-Semitism against Jews as a nation (357 BCE). Perhaps we can learn from this primordial example and extrapolate some perspective regarding anti-Semitism in the 21st century.
The background to the Purim story is that our ancestors failed to heed the call of Mordechai to avoid King Achashveirosh’s worldwide, six-month party, regardless if the food and wine were kosher. As the leading halachic authority, it was Mordechai’s responsibility to guide Klal Yisrael. Failure to listen to daas Torah exposes people to the consequences.
When Mordechai refused to bow to the viceroy Haman, he raged not just against Mordechai, but against the entire Jewish people. This was not about Mordechai. Hashem chose to repay us in kind for doing as we pleased instead of what was advised by our spiritual leader. It was only through three days of fasting, prayer, and repentance that we merited a miraculous salvation.
When people are filled with hate and bias against Jews, that has nothing to do with anything we may have done to them. It has everything to do with how well we are fulfilling our collective mission. Sometimes we need a reminder to not go astray and to return. As my own Rav has said many times, we had a nice break of 75 years following the Holocaust. However, we must remember that we remain in galus until the Moshiach arrives. May that happen very soon.