There is anti-Semitism on the political left, Sen. Chuck Schumer admitted in a 45-minute speech on the Senate floor that outlined historical context, the war with Hamas, and examples of recent incidents in this county. He described the rise in anti-Semitism since October 7 as a “five-alarm fire.”

“Jewish Americans represent two percent of the US population, yet we are the targets of 55 percent of all religion-based hate crimes recorded by the FBI,” he said. “This problem has been steadily worsening in recent years, but after Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, hate crimes against Jewish Americans have skyrocketed.”

Throughout his long political career, which began with his election to the State Assembly at age 23, Schumer’s identity as a Jew from Brooklyn, grandson of immigrants, son of an exterminator who graduated from Harvard Law School, and rose to the most powerful seat in the Senate, served as an example of success for an American Jew.

At the same time, many of his Jewish constituents have asked whether Schumer could have been more vocal in opposing Iran’s nuclear ambitions, holding the Palestinian leadership accountable for funding terrorism, and preventing leftists from picking up seats within the Democratic Party.

Was Schumer more loyal towards liberal sensibilities over Jewish security? In contrast to the late Henry Kissinger, who downplayed his identity and distanced himself from Jewish causes, Schumer speaks proudly of his ancestry and heritage. But what happens when his political position clashes with his sense of personal security as a Jew?

“Many of the people who have expressed these sentiments in America aren’t neo-Nazis, or card-carrying Klan members, or Islamist extremists. They are in many cases people that most liberal Jewish Americans felt previously were their ideological fellow travelers,” Schumer said.

“Not long ago, many of us marched together for Black and Brown lives, we stood against anti-Asian hatred, we protested bigotry against the LGBTQ community, we fought for reproductive justice out of the recognition that injustice against one oppressed group is injustice against all. But apparently, in the eyes of some, that principle does not extend to the Jewish people.”

He then listed examples of persecution that Jews experienced over the centuries, including examples beyond the Ashkenazi community, such as the Mawza Exile of Yemenite Jews in 1679 and the displacement of 600,000 Mizrachi Jews following the independence of Israel in 1948. Such events are important in the memories of Jews when they hear accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide coming from Arab countries.

Schumer pivoted back to the American Jewish experience, noting that the success of some Jews in this country, along with the military strength of Israel, has resulted in a perception of Jews as “oppressors.”

“For many Jewish Americans, any strength and security that we enjoy always feels tenuous. No matter how well we’re doing, it can all be taken away in an instant,” he said. “That’s just how it is. We only have to look back a century, a few generations, to see how this can happen.”

He spoke of his grandfather rooting for the German Empire during World War I as its treatment of Jews was comparatively better than tsarist Russia. “But in the span of a decade, all of that changed.”

Schumer named the slogans used by anti-Israel demonstrators, his family’s immigration from Europe to America, relatives killed in the Holocaust, his ears pressed to the radio in 1967, and hearing of the October 7 Hamas attack during his visit to China.

We do not know how many people listened to Schumer’s speech in its entirety, but it was historic in its breadth of subjects and examples, a belated recognition that the progressive side of the political spectrum is infected with anti-Semitism. But in any historic address, what isn’t mentioned deserves scrutiny.

While he mentioned slogans such as “River to the Sea” and “any means necessary” as anti-Semitic, he did not name Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib. Nor did he make any promises of removing them from his party or challenging them in primaries. That task is in the hands of grassroots organizations such as Democratic Majority for Israel, because, as the Majority Leader, every seat matters for his party, even those represented by members of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America).

With Schumer staying above the fray, only 22 of his party colleagues in the House voted to censure Tlaib for the phrase “from the River to the Sea.” They face an onslaught of protests from leftists on a daily basis, and have a difficult fight to retain their seats if confronted by a progressive primary challenger.

He spoke of “militant settlers” as an obstacle to the two-state solution, but nothing of the internationally-recognized Palestinian Authority’s paying families of terrorists, promoting martyrdom, and a country without Jews. He noted the “double standard that has been wielded against the Jewish people for generations to isolate us,” but failed to connect how accusations of ethnic cleansing and genocide aimed against Israel are a projection of Palestinian goals concerning Jews.

In his Oval Office address nearly two months ago, President Joe Biden spoke of American support for Israel and Ukraine as an “inflection point in history – one of those moments where the decisions we make today are going to determine the future for decades to come.” The same can be said of his party’s reaction towards anti-Semitism on its left flank. Despite threats by Muslim voters in swing states to sit out next year’s election, Biden has not called for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

In Great Britain, the Labour Party had a similar reckoning in 2020, when Keir Starmer defeated Jeremy Corbyn, putting the issue of anti-Semitism at the forefront of that contest. Upon his victory, he apologized on behalf of the party, vowed to “tear out this poison by its roots,” and then sidelined Corbyn’s supporters, shifting the party’s focus toward economic matters, while remaining committed to a two-state solution.

Schumer spoke of “doing everything in my power” to make the American experience for Jews different from previous diasporas where prosperity turned to persecution, but then left that call of action to his fellow citizens.

“I implore every person and every community and every institution to stand with Jewish Americans and denounce anti-Semitism in all of its forms... The time for solidarity must be now. Nothing less than the future of the American experiment hangs in the balance.”

By Sergey Kadinsky