Doug Schoen: Poway Synagogue shooting calls us to action -- Anti-Semitism can’t be a political football

Saturday’s tragic and deadly attack at the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, underscores the need for all Americans to come together to attack the scourge of anti-Semitism.

I was particularly heartened by President Trump’s remarks in Wisconsin where he stood up for Jews and the Jewish community unabashedly – “forcefully condemn[ing] the evil of anti-Semitism and hate,” and decreeing that “it must be defeated.”

POWAY, CALIFORNIA SYNAGOGUE SHOOTING EYEWITNESS: YOU SAW THE HATE AND YOU SAW THE MURDER IN HIS EYES

While the president offered similar remarks after last year’s deadly massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, those were met with perhaps a degree of skepticism in light of his remarks in the aftermath of the deadly white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, when he said there were “very fine people on both sides.”

Needless to say, in the case of Charlottesville, there were not fine people on both sides - as one side represented neo-Nazis who chanted “Jews shall not replace us.”

As such, Saturday represented a major improvement in rhetoric for the president.

It also represents where America needs to go.

Put simply, anti-Semitism can not be a political football for both sides to kick around when it’s convenient. And to date that is what has happened on both sides.

I felt strongly after Charlottesville that President Trump’s response was divisive and did not encourage the type of reconciliation we needed to heal.

I have also called out my own party on many occasions over the past year for failing to explicitly reprimand the blatantly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric of Reps.  Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich.

Candidly, I am deeply depressed over the rise in anti-Semitism that we are seeing in the United States and around the world. 

This failure has been a step backward for Democrats, and a missed opportunity to stand for what is right and to be at the forefront of this crucial issue.

What, then, as a country must we do?

First and foremost, in light of recent tragedies, its clearer than ever that we need to protect our religious institutions as well as the faithful inside.

Every synagogue should get support from local and national law enforcement to provide the reasonable comfort for American Jewry that we can worship in peace without risking our lives, or facing another tragic attack.

This is not just a Jewish issue. Regardless of where one prays – be it a  mosque, church, or Hindu temple – every American has the right to worship in peace and free of fear from violence.

I thought that Joe Biden made a fair point in his recent criticism of Trump for his "moral equivalence between those spreading hate and those with the courage to stand against it.”

However, Biden then tried to politicize the issue by declaring that the 2020 election is a "battle for the soul of this nation."

I would urge Biden and his fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls to tone down the politicking and come together under a renewed call for religious unity.

The major substantive (that is, non-electoral) challenge that I see in this election is to come together to decry behavior that divides and weakens us as a nation.

President Trump took the right first step on Saturday.

And it is my sincere hope that Joe Biden and the Democrats will come together and commit to fighting anti-Semitism, and supporting Israel – understanding that there cannot be a peace process if the Jewish people are not comfortable with America’s commitment to their security.

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Right now, it is difficult to be optimistic about many things. And candidly, I am deeply depressed over the rise in anti-Semitism that we are seeing in the United States and around the world.

But ultimately, President Trump’s remarks provide hope that all Americans -- regardless of ideology or party -- can come together to decry this latest attack on American Jews.