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Defining Anti-Semitism

The first step of addressing any challenge is defining it.  But anti-Semitism is more than a challenge. It’s a direct threat rather than an abstract one – as our people were sadly reminded last week.

The Threat of Anti-Semitism is Not New

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), in downtown DC, calls it “the longest hatred.”  The museum continues by defining it as a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and that the plague of anti-Semitism has sickened “the world for more than 2,000 years.”

The USHMM definition is fairly aligned to the Webster’s Dictionary definition of anti-Semitism:  hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.

The threat of anti-Semitism isn’t a Jewish problem.  It’s a human problem. Hate is hate. When one people are marginalized or threatened, all people are marginalized and threatened.  This isn’t quite intersectionality – it’s logic.

As the prominent Lutheran German Pastor Martin Niemöller said, as a vocal critic to Adolf Hitler and Nazism, in his post-World War II remarks:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Niemöller was not a perfect person.  No man (or woman or non-binary individual) is perfect.  Niemöller was critical of his own culpability as a Christian for his earlier support for Hitler, but his example as a leader is an important one for today’s day and age.  Let us not forget that if we don’t learn from the past, we are bound to repeat it.

Lessons from the Tree of Life Synagogue

We have a lot to learn from the tragedy that sunk all of our hearts on Saturday, October 27 in the steel city.  The lessons must be for all people – not just the Jewish people.  To me, the most important lesson that we must take as Americans and as Jewish-Americans is to equally agree on a definition of anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism is a “prejudice against or hatred of Jews” and it is “hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.”  But it is also more than that…

I personally accept the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) “working definition”.  As an American, the United States is a party to this non-legally binding working definition and as an American, I accept my country’s definition of anti-Semitism as,

“A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA and the U.S. describe a number of manifestations of anti-Semitism online, which may include but is not limited to “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 anti-Semitic. Anti-Semitism 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.”

The residents of Pittsburgh and the Tree of Life Synagogue may have never thought that such an evil could ever befall them.  They are not to blame for anything that they did or did not do for the evil of the shooter – whose name is not worth repeating. The residents of the DMV should also never think that such evil will not befall our torn community.  

Anti-Semitism Persists 

In the few days alone since the tragedy of Pittsburgh, two incidents of anti-Semitism in our community bring pain to my heart.

On Monday, October 29 – just two days after the shooting – a DC public high school found a swastika sticker affixed to a bathroom wall.  This same school found swastika graffiti on a bathroom wall just one year ago.  As noted, if we do not learn from history, we’re bound to repeat it. Unfortunately, these acts at the DC school are not alone.  Although the most recent swastika was found two days after the Pittsburgh attack, another swastika was found drawn on a classroom desk at Winston Churchill High School in Potomac, MD just two days prior to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting.  An analysis from The Washington Post found three dozen bias incidents in Montgomery County schools alone in the 2016-2017 school year.

Despite it All, We Pursue Peace 

As Jews, I suspect those reading this article and those who attend GatherDC programming believe – like me – in the Jewish ideal of tikkun olam.   These acts of hatred are new cracks in the fractured and broken world in which we live. As Jews, we spend every day looking to repair the world.  I for one will do what I can to double down in my efforts to give my time, my creativity, and my tzedakah to do my small part to repair the world.  I hope you will join me. You can say thank you to a stranger, hold the elevator or front door open for a neighbor, smile at someone that looks different than you, or donate to a charity that is meaningful to you.

Showing up for Shabbat 

I spent my Shabbat before the shooting with friends and family at Washington Hebrew Congregation’s 2239 community shabbat with Rabbi Miller.  I spent my Shabbat after the shooting with friends and family at Sixth & I’s Solidarity Shabbat with Rabbis Shira and Jesse.

I decided to #ShowUpForShabbat. I am committing myself to peace, justice, love, and a desire to pray for those who currently have darkness in their hearts towards Jews – or any other people – to question their own hate and replace it with understanding and light.  The Jewish people make up only 2% of the American population and approximately 0.2% of global citizenry. But, I do hope that we can be – in these dark days – a light unto the nations to guide all people to a better understanding of who we are as a people and what we are as a religion. Let us all take our first step into that light by agreeing to the same definition of anti-Semitism, so we as a generation can eliminate it so our children do not need to experience the pain that we all feel this week.

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004, and volunteers for several Jewish organizations including B’nai Brith International. He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often be found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

The Washington Post Takes Anti-Semitism Mainstream

If you aren’t Jewish, then don’t date Jewish men, is what The Washington Post’recent piece called “I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion” insinuates.

Author Carey Purcell’s incomprehensible conclusion surrounding her failed dating experiences takes Jew-bashing tropes mainstream.

Particularly, in a time of rising anti-Semitism, when DC Councilman Trayon White said that the Jews controlled the weather and Louis Farrakhan espoused anti-Semitism at a recent speech, the widely-read Washington Post now contributes to the problem.  

Purcell laments the fact that her two Jewish boyfriends left her after many years, claiming that it was because she was not Jewish.

“Over almost seven years and two serious relationships with Jewish men who at first said religion didn’t matter—and then backtracked and decided it did—I’ve optimistically begun interfaith relationships with an open mind twice, only to become the last woman these men dated before settling down with a nice Jewish girl. I can now say with certainty I am tired of being a Jewish man’s rebellion.”

Despite her sample size – of two – Purcell makes assumptions about Jewish men writ large, promoting broad stereotypes and generalizations which further prejudice against all Jews—ironic considering how many times Purcell writes that she understands a great deal about Judaism.

In fact, Purcell gives the very evidence undermining all of her credibility in the article itself: almost 44% of Jews have a non-Jewish spouse, and that number is rising, according to Pew Research. Clearly a large portion of Jewish men do not, in fact, have a problem marrying non-Jews, as Purcell would try to make you believe. As she herself outlines, the evidence shows that the problem isn’t Jewish men, but in fact Ms. Purcell. And let’s be honest: it’s not hard to see why she hasn’t found Mr. Right.

Purcell again undermines her claim:

“Not being Jewish was not the official reason either of these relationships ended. There were other problems – money, careers, and plans for the future.”

None of those problems are small, and Purcell’s conclusion to pin the ultimate failing of the relationship on religion is unsubstantiated – and at the very least underscores her inability to look at a relationship as the sum of its parts. However, she has no problem labelling all Jewish men as the sum of her small experience dating.

Moreover, Purcell seems to take issue with the fact that her boyfriends might have changed their minds about not caring about their religious differences…despite offering no good proof of this other than an angry outburst from her ex’s mother and the fact that her exes went on to marry “nice Jewish girls.”

But even if one was to somehow assume Purcell’s analysis was not entirely off-base: is she trying to say that two people in a serious and committed relationship aren’t allowed to change their views and grow over time?

Anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship understands that two people either grow together, or grow apart.

Purcell writes that, “These [religious differences] issues weren’t there at first, but they started to appear after some time had passed and we were already in love,” as if to lead the reader to believe that her exes purposefully led her astray, despite the fact that these so-called “rebellious” phases inexplicably endured multiple years, and many serious conversations.

Even more offensive, Purcell frequently mentions how much she knows about Judaism and how much she respects it, but ends the piece by stating her resolve to create a cocktail named “A Jewish Man’s Rebellion,” complete with a bacon garnish.

Perhaps Purcell thought she was being clever and biting with the intent to include the non-kosher food on such a garnish, but again her conclusions were spiteful and misguided.

There is a silver lining to her piece, though. Ms. Purcell will finally get what she wants: she won’t have to worry about dating another Jewish man.

 

 

About the Author: Idalia Friedson lives in works in DC. In her free time, she enjoys doing Krav Maga, singing too loudly, and attending Gather DC’s Wednesday night learning group with Rabbi Aaron Potek.

 

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

From K Street to the Knesset – Pt 2:  Addressing Anti-Semitism at Home and Abroad

Spring has sprung.

It has come in like a lion. But I hope that it goes out like a lamb. And I’m not talking about the weather. Well, kind of…

On Friday, March 16, an elected official from DC’s Council serving the residents of Ward 8, made a regrettable statement.  This was not his first. His subsequent apologies rang with a sense of sorrow. They spoke of regret. They addressed a need to move forward and to use the remarks as a learning experience.

In echoing anti-Semitic tropes from generations ago, Councilmember Trayon White, said in a Facebook Live video, Man, it just started snowing out of nowhere this morning, man. Y’all better pay attention to this climate control, man, this climate manipulation.  And DC keep talking about, ‘We a resilient city.’ And that’s a model based off the Rothschilds controlling the climate to create natural disasters they can pay for to own the cities, man. Be careful.”

As snow flurries fell on DC on last Friday morning, Councilmember White’s remarks opened up a blizzard of a reaction from inside and outside of the District.

DCcouncil.us serves as the online and official home for our city’s legislative body.  The website describes the council as,

the central and chief policy-making body for the District of Columbia” and it defines the mission of the body, “to provide strong, innovative and effective leadership for the benefit of residents across the city.

The statements of Councilmember White are not the official position of the DC Government.  Our city does not believe that the Jews control the weather.  The comments are not policy. But, policy is shaped by policymakers in a representative democracy.  And this comment certainly did not represent “effective leadership for the benefit of [Jewish] residents across the city.”

We’ve all made regrettable statements.  Facebook is full of them. Few can point to a perfect record of speaking on and off-the-record.  But this “lion” of a comment by an elected official in his private time on a social media channel was not a one-off remark.  On February 27, Councilmember White in his official capacity – at a hearing that included Mayor Muriel Bowser – asked the President of the University of the District of Columbia (UDC):

“There’s this whole concept with the Rothschilds — control the World Bank, as we all know — infusing dollars into major cities.  They really pretty much control the federal government, and now they have this concept called resilient cities in which they are using their money and influence into local cities.  How does this influence this? Because it’s really about infrastructure and climate control. What does this have to do with UDC? Have they put money into UDC? What’s the relationship between the Rothschilds and the Rockefellers?”

Councilmember White’s remarks implied that wealthy Jewish families or the Jewish people control the weather, the Federal Government, international development, and local government.

In one of his follow-up messages from the Facebook remark, he said, “I want to apologize to the Jewish Community and anyone I have offended.  The Jewish community have been allies with me in my journey to help people. I did not intend to be Anti-Semitic, and I see I should have said that after learning from my colleagues,” on Instagram in a written statement from March 18.

Since the initial remark was made, and the blizzard of media and communal backlash began, Councilmember White has held meetings with several Jewish Metropolitan Washington communal groups, including Jews United for Justice (JUFJ) and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).

JUFJ said:

Councilmember White’s words were wrong – even though they weren’t made with malice. That is why we have been working with Councilmember White, mostly behind the scenes, to support what our Jewish tradition calls teshuvah: a process of repentance, apology, learning, and change.”

JCRC will be working with Councilmember White and they have a commitment from him to join them for a visit to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and to dialogue with Holocaust survivors.  In a public statement, they said that

“the JCRC takes Councilmember White’s comments very seriously, and will continue working to ensure that both he and his colleagues on the DC Council not only have heightened understanding of anti-Semitism but also heightened vigilance and sensitivity in responding unequivocally when they hear it from others.”

During this same week where these regrettable statements were made in the United States’ capital city, a dialogue was occurring in the capital city of the Jewish State.  The Sixth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism took place in Jerusalem from March 16-21.  The theme of the forum was “United to Stop Hate.”  And that is what we must do. We, as a Jewish community, must reach out to other communities to better educate them about the Jewish experience of today and of generations’ past.

An Israeli historian on the Holocaust, Yehuda Bauer, said at the conference in Jerusalem that, “we have to realize that anti-Semitism is not a Jewish problem but a problem of the societies in which it rises. It’s a cancer which eats the societies in which it comes up.”

Perhaps, now that Gather the Jews is called GatherDC, we can also play a role in gathering non-Jewish groups of 20s and 30s to dialogue and serve our communities together.  We have much to learn about all forms of hate.  And we collectively can stand together to combat all forms of hatred in any and all way that its darkness manifests itself.  From here, we can hope that this spring that came in with the roar of a lion can end with the gentle nature of the lamb.

 

 

 

About the Author: Jason Langsner is a part of our “Gather the Bloggers” cohort of talented writers who share their thoughts and insights about DC Jewish life with you. Jason has been an active lay leader of the Washington Jewish community since moving to the city in 2004.  He is a small business owner and formerly served as the head of digital strategy for the oldest Jewish human rights and humanitarian organization in the world. When not blogging, he can often by found walking around his Eastern Market neighborhood with his Jewish dog, Shekels, or riding around DC area bike trails.

 

 

 

The views and opinions expressed in this blog and on this website are solely those of the original authors. These views and opinions do not necessarily represent those of the organization GatherDC, the GatherDC staff, the GatherDC board, and/or any/all contributors to this site.

Anti-Semitism & Hate Defy Logic in the Premier League

Benayoun playing for West Ham United.

After this article was published on GTJ, DC Sports Beat approached Jon for an interview.  You can listen to his interview here.

In the past few weeks, the illogical nature of anti-Semitism was put on full display in two separate incidents in which fans of the Tottenham Hotspurs were the recipients of mindless hatred.  Why was Tottenham targeted?  It’s not just because they have a long history of Jewish ownership, but that they are also extremely close to the orthodox community in London. The history of anti-Semitism against the Hotspurs is a long one; it begins with other teams calling them the “Yids” as a derogatory term to insult their supporters.  In response, Tottenham fans banded together to turn an insult into a positive by calling themselves the “Yid Army.”  Other groups, with either no association with the club or who are Jewish but fans of rival clubs, feel adopting this word just eggs on other racist fans.

 To summarize the two incidents:

  • In Italy, fans of the Lazio team recently stabbed two Tottenham fans.  The team has been fined in the past for its fans’ anti-Semitic actions according to NBC sports, and has a long history of racist behavior.
  • At a recent game between West Ham United and the Tottenham Hotspurs, West Ham fans were cheering for Hitler, complimenting the Lazio club on the recent stabbing, and making other anti-Semitic remarks.

The Lazio club is known for these types of incidents, but it’s not surprising that an Italian club- where many supporters idolize Mussolini- would hate Jews. The events at the recent English Premier League game are both troubling and devoid of any logic.  Initially, these news stories would lead someone to believe that anti-Semitism is making a reoccurrence to a dark age in soccer when Jews were constantly in the bull’s eye of the hatred of some clubs.  However, at least one author would say it never left.  On top of the obvious reason that anti-Semitism, along with all types of racism in this world, is never acceptable, the other reasons below show the ridiculousness of these events:

  • One of the starters of West Ham is a well respected Israeli (and Jew) named  Yossi Benayoun. The West Ham fans are basically insulting one of their own in their mindless hatred.  Benayoun was obviously dismayed by the recent chants.  Also, one of their owners, David Gold, is Jewish. To the club’s credit, they are promising to ban for life any individual they can find who was involved with the chant.
  • Two of the other biggest clubs in the league, Manchester United (Malcolm Glazer) and Chelsea (Roman Abramovich), have major owners who are Jewish.
  • Why on earth would the fans of any London team ever cheer for Hitler?  This would be like the NY Giants cheering Al-Qaeda against the Redskins.

While the major sports in the US have their own moments of absurdity ranging from Eagles fans booing Santa Claus to rare tragic violence at baseball games, these are generally instances of just bad apples. The hive-mind where racism is accepted and on full display in the US sporting world doesn’t exist.  Even when Joel Ward, a forward for the Washington Capitals, was sent a sizable number of racist tweets from Boston Bruin fans, it was immediately condemned across the NHL and in no way was it an organized event.  The closest thing we have in the US has been the controversy over Ole Miss, much of it brilliantly documented in an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary about football, racism, and integration in the 1960s.  In the past, the mascot (now retired) was a confederate soldier and they played Dixie at official school functions (a medley that included Dixie was discounted in 2009).

Sports can provide the opportunity for sheer unexpected excitement and gut punches.  It can also bring out the best in humanity.  Hopefully, shining a bright light on this awful chapter in European soccer allows it to solve its problems of the past and return the focus to a sport that so much of the world loves.

Snoop Dog a Member of the Tribe? – Gather the News – 10/17

Oh a gathering we will go…

  • David Meir Grossman of Jewcy discusses Rick Ross’ decision to title his latest album The Black Bar Mitzvah.
  • Is Snoop interested in becoming one of the chosen people?  We’re not sure, but in a new commercial for Hot Pockets he rocks a blinged out Star of David.

 

JCRC asks for your help with fighting anti-Semitism

In case you haven’t been following the Yale controversy, first see these GTJ blog posts:  News story,  Mitzvah Maker Alvin Rosenfeld responds, and an article in the Washington Post from a GWU professor.

….

Letter from JCRC’s Arielle Farber

Dear Friends,

Yale University has announced that the well-respected Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism is scheduled to be closed down.  The Center was the first university-based center in North America dedicated to the study of anti-Semitism, and as George Washington University’s Professor Walter Reich, a member of the international academic board of advisers of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism, stated in a Washington Post Op-Ed, “The quality and output of the Yale Institute have been superb and wide-ranging.”

While we understand that Yale has concerns that the Center has not met certain academic standards set by the university, we are asking the administration to reverse what seems to be a hasty decision and to instead provide the Center with a grace period to improve and achieve the goal of meeting those standards.

Yale’s own distinguished Law School alumnus Professor Alan Dershowitz, added in an op-ed in the Hudson New York, “The precipitous decision to close YIISA, made without even a semblance of due process and transparency, could not have come at a worse time. Nor could it have sent a worse message.”  At a time of increased global anti-Semitism, the closure of this Center will send a dangerous message that combating anti-Semitism should no longer be an academic priority, or perhaps even a national priority.  For more information about global anti-Semitism, please see the website of the ADL and the website of the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

Please take a moment to use our automated system to send an email to the President and Provost of Yale University urging them to reconsider the decision to close down this important Center.  Click here to Act Now!

Thank you,

Arielle Farber
Director of Israel & International Affairs

 

Coldplay gives Israel the cold shoulder

The British band Coldplay took sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict today when it promoted a music video entitled ‘Freedom for Palestine.’   The video, which was made by the OneWorld group and posted on youtube about a week ago, was featured on Coldplay’s Facebook page.  The move, which caught the attention of Jewish and Israeli news sites, has had a polarizing effect among fans.  Read here for more information.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldstone recants. Now What?

"If I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document."

I won’t go as far as Moment Magazine and say that Richard Goldstone pulled a 180, but I will say he turned at least 90 degrees…

For those of you who missed it, Richard Goldstone, former chair of the U.N. Human Rights Commission fact finding mission that assessed the 2008/9 Gaza War, just admitted in The Washington Post that Israel is not in fact the scum of the universe, nor did it purposefully target civilians.  Hamas, on the other hand, is far from awesome…

The damage of Goldstone’s original report, can’t be fully undone.  But we can make some ameliorative efforts.  One such step forward is getting the United Nations to recognize Goldstone’s change in position.  The best option I’ve seen to quickly contribute to the cause is to sign this letter sponsored by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Here’s the letter:

I join with the Simon Wiesenthal Center and its 400,000 worldwide supporters in urging you to publicly endorse Judge Richard Goldstone’s retraction of The Goldstone Report whose key allegation was that Israel targeted civilians in Gaza during the 2009 war with Hamas.
We further ask you to inform all members of the UN General Assembly of his retraction.  We also urge you to call on the UN Human Rights Council Chief Navi Pillay and UNHRC members to block any further action based on the erroneous charges in what is now seen by the author as a fundamentally flawed document.
The Goldstone Report has caused inestimable and continuing damage to the international standing of Israel and her supporters around the world. Judge Goldstone has now publicly disassociated himself from his own report. The United Nations should do no less.