Delman wears a kippa and is the only Jew on his football team. People treated him differently at first, but “now they know I’m the same, it’s just a different religion.” But the walk to his synagogue is scarier.
“People have screamed anti-Semitic things at me and my dad walking to shul,” he said.
New York City, where the metro area has about 1.7 million Jews, was supposed to be a safe place. Jews first came in 1654. Nearly three centuries later it provided refuge from the Holocaust. Massive paintings by Marc Chagall, a Jew who in 1941 escaped Nazis in France to come to New York, cover the Metropolitan Opera’s lobby.
In this Yonkers congregation are Jews with roots all over the world: a Sri Lankan Jew who traced his heritage to Portuguese Jews ousted by the Portuguese Inquisition, a Yemenite Jew (only a few dozen, if any, remain in Yemen), and an Egyptian Jew. At another table in the back corner sat Chaim Grossman, 89, who has concentration camp numbers tattooed on his arm. He survived Buchenwald and is in a famous photo from the liberation of that camp, as one of the skeletons on a bunk next to Elie Wiesel.
But the American refuge doesn’t feel like a refuge now.
Swastikas drawn on Jewish buildings have escalated to strings of assaults on Orthodox Jews, whose religion is obvious in their clothing and hair. In August in Brooklyn, someone lobbed a brick at a Jewish man’s face, breaking his nose and teeth. Then it got worse: In December two shooters killed a police detective, then two Jews and an employee at a kosher deli in Jersey City, N.J. Two other Jews also suffered injuries.
At the end of December, an assailant rushed into a rabbi’s home in Monsey, N.Y., just north of the city, where Jews were gathered to celebrate Hanukkah. Armed with a machete, he stabbed five and critically injured two—one remains in a coma and may have permanent brain damage. According to court filings, the suspect had anti-Semitic journal entries and references to the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, as did the kosher deli shooters.