When the 40-something reader in the kippah at my book event in Michigan approached the signing table, I already knew what he was going to say, if not the humiliating specifics. Readers like him always tell me these things. He hovered until most people had dispersed, and then described his supermarket trip that morning. Another shopper had rammed him with a cart, hard. Maybe it had been an accident, except the shopper had shouted, “The kosher bagels are in the next aisle!” He’d considered saying something to the store manager, but to what end? Besides, it wasn’t much worse than the baseball game the day before, when other fans had thrown popcorn at him and his kids.
The recent rise in American anti-Semitism is well documented. I could fill pages with FBI hate-crime statistics, or with a list of violent attacks from the past six years or even the past six months, or with the growing gallery of American public figures saying vile things about Jews. Or I could share stories you probably haven’t heard, such as one about a threatened attack on a Jewish school in Ohio in March 2022—where the would-be perpetrator was the school’s own security guard. But none of that would capture the vague sense of dread one encounters these days in the Jewish community, a dread unprecedented in my lifetime.