Do you remember the first time you learned about anti-Semitism? If you are like me, you don’t, because as long as you can remember, it was always there. It was woven into my childhood Jewish education the way challah is rolled (or braided) into most Jewish holidays. Lessons, stories, and prayers remind us that long ago we were once slaves in Egypt. We have been fighting ever since.
Evidence that violence against Jews is on the rise is overwhelming. Anti-Semitic assaults in the US more than doubled in 2018, according to the Andi-Defamation League. Over the past six months, it appears as if it has been even more rampant. On a broad, non-violent level, we have heard anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist remarks in the women’s movement. On the other end, we have had two
fatal shootings at synagogues. As much as anti-Semitism has been a part of my life, we are in a place today that I never imagined I would witness.
Dove Kent (right) and me in conversation
at the 2019 JWFN conference.
The first night of the conference, I interviewed Dove Kent, Senior Strategy Officer at Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice. Dove is an advocacy and community organizing expert and a leading voice in the national fight against anti-Semitism. Dove shared with the Network how anti-Semitism takes many different forms. Out of the many forms we see, she explained that she sees the greatest threat to the Jewish people to be white nationalism.
White Nationalism is a social movement that emerged after the Civil Rights movement. White nationalist groups espouse white supremacist ideologies, often focusing on the alleged inferiority of nonwhites. They believe that white identity should be the organizing principle of the countries that make up Western civilization. The movement seeks to dismantle the current state, and replace it with a white only ethno-state that eliminates Jews and people of color. (Southern Poverty Law Center).
At this point in time, Dove explained, we don’t have the privilege of focusing on less threatening forms of anti-Semitism that we see in the women’s movement, the media, and in many aspects of our everyday lives. It is the severe extremism in the white nationalist movement that requires our immediate and complete attention.
Dove encouraged members of the JWFN to build relations with diverse communities, focus our efforts, and organize with the larger Jewish community. When we come together to combat hate, Dove explained, our voices reverberate. As a result of our conversation, I will build stronger alliances with individuals and organizations of different faiths, and increase my communication with leading organizers around anti-Semitism. I urge you to consider, what will you do?