The Oldest Hatred

You would have to have your head in the sand…. deep in the sand, to not recognize the rise in antisemitism in our country.  For the last decade we’ve heard about what was happening in Europe and in other countries around the world and we’ve shaken our heads, “It will never happen here” and yet, it has happened, it is happening.

Antisemitism, the world’s oldest hatred is rearing its ugly head in almost every aspect of our public life.

Antisemitism has shown itself to be incredibly adaptable

It feels like antisemitism is being normalized, right before our eyes.

But, what is antisemitism?

Perhaps the most universal and adopted definition of antisemitism is the one developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which has been adopted throughout the world which states, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.  Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

For illustration purposes, IHRA states,

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

A couple of weeks ago we received a notification that CNN would be airing “Rising Hate: Antisemitism in America,” (this Sunday at 9pm) a piece being hosted by Dana Bash (born Dana Ruth Schwartz) on how antisemitism has entered the mainstream of society.  If you are a viewer of CNN you’d have been hard-pressed to have missed one of their promos this week.

The documentary was produced independently by CNN and (we have not seen an advanced copy of the program) features a number of names and organizations that we know well).  In the making of the program, Dana Bash was recently hosted at the Secure Community Network’s National Jewish Security Operations Command Center in Chicago where she toured the facility and spoke with their intelligence analysts and staff.  Previously in May, CNN accompanied SCN to Texas where they conducted their Be Aware: An Introduction to Situational Awareness Training and Countering Active Threat training for four congregations in the Fort Worth area.  SCN provided extensive background information on the threat landscape and SCN’s work to create a security shield over the Jewish community of North America.

SCN is the security arm of the North American Jewish community, and as each day passes, we become more aware of what an important role they play and the need to have a SCN officer in Savannah.

The Savanah Jewish Federation has allocated (and committed to raising) the funds to have our own area Security Director to assess our facilities, train our community, advise on specific programs, and to be a liaison with local, state, and Federal law enforcement agencies.  We have established a Community Security Committee made up of representatives of all organizations and are actively seeking that Security officer for Savannah.  We hope to have that person “in place” this Fall.

Another one of our partners and Campaign beneficiaries, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is also featured in the CNN documentary as they were granted access to the new ADL Investigative Research Lab and spent time with Oren Segal who shared how they track and monitor extremist activity.  ADL CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt was interviewed and spoke about the ways that antisemitism is manifesting throughout the country whether it be from neo-Nazis and white supremacists on the right or radical anti-Zionists on the left.

In a communication from the ADL they indicated that in the CNN interviews they shared how extremists are using gaming platforms as gateways to broadcast hate and anti-Semitism to younger and younger audiences.  It is an insidious method of mainstreaming and normalizing anti-Semitism to children and is used as a recruitment tool.

While we don’t know what the final broadcast piece will look like on Sunday night, we know that there will be high viewership and it will serve to acknowledge that there is a problem in this country, and it’s not just a Jewish problem, it is an issue for all Americans and demands our attention and a solution.

Shabbat Shalom

PS  If you haven’t already signed up for Rabbi Refson’s 4-session course, Outsmarting Antisemitism, you are missing a great opportunity to look at antisemitism through a whole new lense.  It starts this week and you can read more about it here.