I live in a small town in the Hudson Valley, NY. When I moved here, close to a decade ago, it seemed like the kind of sleepy town where the pace of life is a little slower, and people take things a little easier.
Sometime after I settled in I was made aware of a village, segregated by the choice of its residents, from the town it is was part of. The village is a community of strict orthodox Jews, related to the Satmar Hasidic dynasty.
For years there was peaceful co-existence between the Jewish community and its neighboring villages. Occasionally tensions would rise over use of local resources, but all in all, balance was maintained.
In a recent elections, this community, by voting as a bloc, was able to sit a supervisor and town board of their choice in a controlling position. The elected officials are not part of that Jewish community but it is more than obvious to anyone at my town who they really serve. The balance, already shaky over the past few years, was completely thrown off.
With the local government now serving one group above the others, tensions started to mount. Still, I can personally testify that none of the groups protesting the imbalance, came even close to making this a racial issue. On the contrary, a number of the people opposing the new administration are Jewish, though not of said Hasidic community. Anyone making protest that even vaguely resembles ethnic comments, is talked down harshly by everyone else. The issues raised in debates, on and offline, are always focused on the effects the decisions of the controlled town-board have on the rest of the local community.
However, when public hearings started to discuss the matters at hand, the attorney hired by the orthodox community was quick to wave a flag of anti-Semitism, claiming that the real story here is a dislike of Jews, tainting everything by racism.
It occurred to me how wrong this is, not only for the town at large, but also for Jews in particular. Once false accusations of racial discrimination start flying, once such fabricated claims are being used and abused, some time later, when some local hateful fellow really takes matters into his own hands, which is always possible as some individuals just about everywhere are racists, no one will care.
Be careful what you falsely shout; one day it may come to bite you. Just ask the boy on the hill.
Learned from: events in my town