I was truly honored last week to share coffee with someone I consider a modern-day hero for all Jewish people. Cross one off my bucket list!
Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, has been an international voice for Holocaust remembrance and engaging tolerance among all for over forty years.
Rabbi Hier was in New York for a private screening of the new film, Never Stop Dreaming, about Shimon Peres. It was produced by the Wiesenthal Center’s Moriah Studios and is based from the words of Perez’s autobiography.
Because Hier believes Peres was one of Israel’s great champions for peace, the film will be released to coincide with the roll-out of the Trump peace plan. Rabbi Hier was asked by Peres personally, before his death, to produce a documentary on his life.
Richard Trank, the film’s director, joined Hier and me in discussion. He shared that the original focus of the film was going to feature David Ben-Gurion, but as they met and spoke with Peres, the film shifted to include many of Peres’s last discussions with them. He gave so much of himself to this film. George Clooney narrates the film. It will have a release date later this year.
We spoke about the increasingly alarming hate words and crimes internationally against Israel and the Jews.
Rabbi Hier told me we just read in the Haggadah that in every generation there is always another Pharaoh who is out to get the Jews.
In each and every generation they rise up against us to destroy us. And the Holy One, blessed be He, rescues us from their hands.
Today we have the leader of Iran.
Some points to focus on in today:
- Politicization of anti-Semitism detracts from the grave danger it poses
- Democrats accusing Republicans of implicitly supporting white supremacists & Republicans accusing Democrats of being anti-Israel/anti-Jewish
- What is needed is leadership and commitment from both sides of the aisle rather than recriminations that prevent government from addressing the issue
- The election cycle is poised to exacerbate the problem
The single biggest challenge in fighting hate speech, including anti-Semitism, is the proliferation of online platforms where messages can be packaged as slick content and quickly disseminated around the world in order to energize and mobilize extremists into action
As the most powerful and important platform communications platform in the world, Facebook needs to recognize its role and be held accountable
Facebook’s grade has steadily fallen on the SWC Digital Hate Report Card over the past few years despite active dialogue and pronouncements from the top
The attacks in Pittsburgh, Poway and Christchurch were all carried out by active consumers of digital hate
The pro-Palestinian movement on campus routinely cross the line between fostering meaningful dialogue and harassing/intimidating Jewish students
- For many Jews, Zionism is a core expression of Jewish identity – by conflating Zionism with Nazism, Pro-Palestine activists are accusing Jews of supporting a Nazi-like entity, which is a deeply offensive form of harassment and anti-Semitism that too many university administrators have tolerated – NYU, Harvard, Columbia, Rutgers, U of Michigan, U of Illinois, Cal etc.
- Israel Apartheid Week includes fake eviction notices on Jewish students’ doors, mock checkpoints on busy campus thoroughfares, anti-Semitic speakers posing as scholars in order to promote the economic and social destruction of Israel and Jewish statehood through BDS
- The State Dept. has accepted the globally adopted International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism – including the use of “Zionists” as a proxy for “Jews” – as the impetus for Title IX investigations into specific cases of discrimination against Jewish students, such as the Rutgers case where Jewish students were allegedly charged admission to a free event that was focused on comparing Israel to Nazi Germany. The event featured anti-Israel Holocaust survivors to provide cover against accusations of anti-Semitism.
We are living in a global climate that is more inhospitable to Jews worldwide than any time since WWII. Economic instability has led to the rise of far-right, populist leaders throughout Central and Eastern Europe, including Poland, Hungary and Greece
Despite sincere efforts by much of German society and the government to grapple with the country’s history, a dangerous current of white supremacy is gaining political and acceptance
In Western Europe and Scandinavia, left-wing anti-Semitism has become normalized in political bodies (UK Labor Party/Jeremy Corbyn)
Events such as Pittsburgh and Poway illustrate a new brazenness among anti-Semites/white supremacists in the U.S., who are willing to “walk the walk”
Rabbi Hier is the only rabbi who is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and he is the recipient of two Academy Awards® for Genocide and The Long Way Home. The Center’s film division, Moriah Films has produced 15 documentaries, which have been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world. Moriah is now in production on its sixteenth documentary – the life story of former Israeli President, Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Laureate, Shimon Peres, to be followed in 2018 by a film on the life story of Israel’s founding Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion.
Noted for his powerful oratory, his views on the issues of the day are regularly sought by the international media. He meets regularly with world leaders to discuss the Center’s agenda. In January 2017, he became the first Orthodox rabbi in American history to give a prayer at a presidential inauguration. And in May 2017, he became the first non-Israeli to light a torch for Israel Independence Day and the 50th Anniversary of the reunification of Jerusalem. He is also the recipient of two honorary degrees, one of them from Yeshiva University in 2004.
Cindy Grosz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org