Merav Galili

Atop a volcano of antisemitism

Anti-Israel US protesters wave Palestinian flags on the West Lawn of Columbia University on April 29, 2024 in New York. (TIMOTHY A. CLARY / AFP)

In the deceptive calm before a volcano erupts, signs of impending turmoil often go unnoticed. This quiet tension mirrors the recent experiences of many Jews in the United States. The events of October 7 in Israel, and the following Israel-Hamas war, unveiled deep-seated layers of antisemitism that, while seemingly dormant, have long been pervasive beneath the surface.

For many American Jews, the comfort of perceived acceptance and safety was abruptly shattered, revealing the blistering lava of antisemitism spilling into their communities and onto their streets. The antisemitic chants, threats on social media, and graffiti on synagogue walls are destructive forces, scorching any trace of stability and normalcy in their path.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports a surge in antisemitic incidents in the United States after October 7. In Ohio, the ADL reported a nearly 300% increase in such incidents, and New York City has seen a 45% increase in antisemitic hate crimes since the war begun. Universities have become hotbeds of anti-Israel protests and antisemitic discourse, with Jewish students increasingly reporting feeling unsafe on campus. A particularly distressing example of this trend is at Columbia University, where Jewish students can no longer attend classes on campus due to fears of violence.

Yet, just as lava enriches soil, these challenges have sparked an internal recognition among American Jews, within their communities, of the need to organize and tackle both the issue of anti-Semitism and the role of the younger generation in addressing it. Much like a sudden volcanic eruption, these harsh realities have led to profound awakenings and a deeper sense of purpose.

As well as recognizing the need to tackle antisemitism head on, American Jews have also renewed their ironclad commitment to the Jewish state. During a recent tour of Jewish communities along the East Coast, I was moved by the profound connection and support they expressed for Israel I observed.

Realizing that Jews in Israel and the Diaspora have a shared future and a collective responsibility to each other, a surge in solidarity has emerged. Across the U.S., Jews have begun mobilizing. They organized rallies, raised funds, and reached out to lawmakers, weaving their loyalty to Israel into their identity more deliberately than ever.

On November 14, over 290,000 people marched in Washington, DC, in the largest pro-Israel rally in the country’s history, demonstrating solidarity with Israel and condemning antisemitism. Last month, the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Board of Governors met in Jerusalem with over 200 Jewish community leaders from around the world gathering to discuss the need for collective response to antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiment, in the largest such gathering ever held.

However, this newfound commitment highlights a growing gap between generations within the community. For many young Jews, Israel had seemed a distant reality—significant yet abstract, more connected to ancient history and religious tradition than to modern politics and social dynamics. The October 7 events served as a catalyst, compelling a cross-generational dialogue. Parents and community leaders are tasked with connecting young minds, raised in a post-national, post-religion world, to a homeland that is often controversial.

Addressing this challenge requires engagement and education. Initiatives should be launched to bring young Jews to Israel, not merely as tourists, but as active participants in its society and politics. Encouraging encounters with Israeli peers, fostering dialogue, and promoting civic participation are essential for painting a more nuanced picture of Israel—beyond the headlines and conflicts—as a nation of innovation, culture, and resilience.

Vast educational initiatives have been proposed, such as establishing ties between Jewish day schools in the US and elsewhere in the Diaspora to develop a core curriculum steeped in Jewish and Zionist values. At the same time, the Jewish Agency has established Communities2Gether, a global partnership program to support Israeli towns and foster connections with Jewish communities worldwide.

Israel, too, must recognize its role in this reciprocal relationship. It’s about more than just receiving support; it’s about providing it as well. Israeli institutions and organizations need to intensify their efforts to combat antisemitism globally, providing resources, sharing intelligence, and offering educational materials to help diaspora communities not only defend against antisemitism but also educate those around them.

From the ashes of hardship, new bonds can form, just as new land forms from volcanic rock. The events of October 7 and the ongoing rise in antisemitism are a wake-up call—a painful yet significant moment that has redefined and reaffirmed the bonds between American Jews and their historic homeland, and caused them to mobilize together like never before.

About the Author
Dr. Merav Galili is the CEO of the Menomadin Foundation, an international Israeli-based impact fund that promotes innovative solutions to sustainable development challenges in Israel and Africa, in a model that combines strategic philanthropy and impact investments. Over two decades in senior management positions in academia and non-profit organizations, Dr. Galili has specialized in establishing local and international partnerships to promote business and social initiatives. In her last position, she served as Vice President for Development at Bar-Ilan University.
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