Every year, Sept. 11 is commemorated across the United States in schools, synagogues and other public places. But 14 years on, some of the fallout from the devastating attack has inevitably slipped from public memory. Here are five forgotten stories of Sept. 11 that involve the Jewish community.
The National Institute of Justice called the task of identifying the dead in the wake of Sept. 11 the “greatest forensic challenge ever undertaken in this country.” With so many bodies unaccounted for, many Orthodox Jewish women whose husbands worked in the World Trade Center became “agunot,” or “chained women” — unable to remarry due to lack of confirmation that their husbands were dead. Nearly 1,600 victims of the attack were identified, but over 1,100 were not, and some of the identifications did not meet the high standards of Orthodox Jewish law.
When a group of Muslims proposed to open an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero in 2009, the idea quickly caused controversy across a city community still rattled by the attack. Even Jewish groups that frequently side with Muslims on freedom of religion cases were skeptical of the project. The Anti-Defamation League flatly opposed the idea, and the American Jewish Committee expressed reservations about the plan.
As an on-the-run fugitive in 2007, Osama bin Laden found time to blame the infamous terror strike on what he termed past Israeli “killing” in Palestine and Lebanon. “The truth, as I said before, is that the Manhattan events were in retaliation for the killing of our kinfolk in Palestine and Lebanon by the U.S.-Israeli alliance and that I am responsible for them,” the Sept. 11 mastermind said in a videotaped message.
Just three months after Sept. 11, two members of the militant Jewish Defense League were charged with planning bombing attacks on Muslim targets in Southern California, including the office of Republican Congressman Darrell Issa (who is of Lebanese descent). While many Jewish groups condemned the plotters, who pled guilty to the charges, a lawyer for one of the men said the government was overreacting in the wake of Sept. 11.
Polls have shown that most of the hate and racism triggered by September 11 has been aimed at American Muslims. But in the year following the attack, the ADL also found an 11 percent increase in reported anti-Semitic incidents. The ADL’s former national director Abraham Foxman said that much of the world “believes that Israel is responsible for 9/11.”