This week, leaders, experts and practitioners are gathering in Jerusalem to figure out a solution to a problem that has challenged the Jewish people for millennia: how to protect ourselves from the never ending threat of anti-Semitism.
In many ways, my life has been defined by this question. My early years were spent as a hidden child, not knowing if my parents – or I – would survive the Nazis. My entire adult professional life has been focused on the fight against anti-Semitism as the national director of the Anti-Defamation League – the world’s leading organization dedicated to combating this oldest of hatreds.
I am proud to be leading an ADL delegation of Jewish leaders and professional experts in the fields of anti-Semitism, Islamic extremism, and cyberhate.
Today, despite my history as a survivor of the Holocaust, I am surprised at the deterioration of the safety, security and well-being for Jews around globe.
Did any of us imagine that 70 years after the Shoah we would ask if Jews have a future in democratic, pluralistic countries such as France, Belgium, Sweden or Denmark? Did we think we would ever again witness mobs trying to invade a synagogue where Jews were gathering – as we saw twice in Paris last summer? Did we ever expect that in 2015, a vibrant, organized Jewish community would be accused by its government of being traitors and looking to create their own, artificially manufactured Jewish leadership – as we see in Argentina today?
We know of this surge in Jew-hatred around the globe first from reports on incidents and anecdotes about atmospherics.
In a bid to dig deeper, into how people really feel, in 2014 ADL released the most extensive public opinion poll about attitudes toward Jews ever conducted: The ADL Global 100: An Index of Anti-Semitism surveyed 53,100 adults in 102 countries and territories in an effort to establish, for the first time, a comprehensive data-based research survey of the level and intensity of anti-Jewish sentiment across the world.
We found that anti-Semitic attitudes are persistent and pervasive around the world. More than one-in-four adults, 26 percent of those surveyed, are deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes. This figure represents an estimated 1.09 billion people around the world.
But as the hatred of Jews persists and even intensifies, we must acknowledge that the picture is not all negative.
Unlike the 1930s and 40s, there is no government committed to the destruction of the Jews. Instead, given all the challenges, there are world leaders who are steadfast in their vocal opposition to anti-Semitism. We see this with Prime Minister Manuel Valls of France, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, and many others.
And we have the United States, which has provided an unparalleled home for the largest population of Jews in the Diaspora, and, as a matter of government policy supported by an overwhelming majority of Americans, has been an advocate and champion for the Jewish people.
And most significantly today, unlike the eras where Jews facing persecution had no place to go and no state to champion them, we have the State of Israel which has transformed Jewish life both in and outside of the state.
Even in the results of ADL’s global poll we found reason to be optimistic – nearly three quarters of those polled are not seriously infected with anti-Semitic beliefs and there are many countries and communities where animus toward Jews is low and Holocaust awareness is strong.
The age-old question of how to stop them from hating us has not gone away. Evil is afoot again in the form of Islamic extremism, classic anti-Semitism, the increasing ease with which criticism of Israel can morph into hatred of Jews and, the greatest challenge of all, the passivity of too many in the face of evil.
Even if I were to head ADL for another 50 years, I worry that without constant attention, careful planning and skillful implementation of measures across broad elements of society, these and other trends can metastasize.
As we come together in Jerusalem — to assess the bad and the good and devise solutions — we must harness what we can do in making clear to the world that the Jewish people demands and deserves commitments, policies and partnerships to contain and offset this enduring hatred.
The world will be better off for it.