On Sunday in New York, an estimated 25,000 marchers gathered in lower Manhattan to protest anti-Semitism and made their way to Brooklyn for the No Hate, No Fear rally sponsored by the UJA-Federation of New York, the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the Anti-Defamation League of New York, the American Jewish Committee of New York and the New York Board of Rabbis. I saw different accounts of how Jewish attendees both came and didn’t come together, but none spoke of what non-Jewish attendance was like.
On Monday, Atlantans are coming together for a Community-Wide Solidarity Rally sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta and other Jewish organizations (though I could not track down which ones). Its hour-and-a-half program was originally set to take place at the Atlanta Jewish Academy and was then moved to the Byrne Auditorium at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center to accommodate demand. Currently, no more registrations are being accepted due to space constrictions (though the venue may yet change). That so many want to show up is meaningful. It is my hope that it isn’t only Jews voicing support and that the Jewish community can see it has allies.
For those unable to attend public gatherings, there are other ways to show support.
The AJC American Jewish Committee has named Monday, January 6 as Jewish and Proud Day and asking people to wear something Jewish, to use the hashtag #JewishandProud, to add a #JewishandProud or #JewishandProud Ally frame to their Facebook profile pictures.
One of the reasons people are encouraged to wear something Jewish is because Judaism isn’t always visible. And one of the reasons that Hasidic Jews in New York and New Jersey have been targeted is because they are visibly Jewish. According to the AJC’s 2019 survey on anti-Semitism, 31% of American Jews are afraid to wear something Jewish in public.
I have worn the same necklace with a Magen David, a Jewish star, since high school, and have a “Hadassah stands with Israel” magnet on my car for about 15 years. I won’t take either down. I will not hide. I will not lie about who I am. At the same time, I have read of local Jewish moms who are afraid to attend synagogue, whose fear of being targeted is palpable. This is not okay. New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, in the speech she delivered at the Sunday No Hate, No Fear rally in New York, expressed it well:
…I am a Jew because I refuse to lie.
I am a Jew because Jews are of every color and class and politics and language. And I am a Jew because hatred of us has no color or class or politics or language.
I am a Jew because Jews do not cause Jew hatred. Ever.
Today, as in so many times in history, there are many forces in the world insisting that Jews must disappear or die. Some say it bluntly. Some cloak it in the language of progress.
But I am a Jew because of I know that there is force far greater than that. And that is the force of who we are and the force of our world-changing ideas…
It would be nice if it was not only our people voicing the need for Jews not to live in fear of being targeted for who we are. As Seffi Kogen, AJC’s Global Director of Young Leadership, wrote, “The sources of antisemitism are many but so are the sources of goodwill. And it’s the forces of goodwill that need to mobilize to beat back hatred. Instead, all people of good conscience have an obligation to stand up and speak out against antisemitism. And all Jews have an obligation to be #JewishandProud.”
I would also like to add that we Jews of conscience also have an obligation to stand up and speak out against all kinds of hate – and not only because we want other demographics to support us in return. Over the last number of years, I have participated in a few marches in Atlanta – the first Women’s March in 2017 (I chose not to attend the later rallies and marches due to the national group’s leadership’s behaviors), the 2018 March for Our Lives supporting gun control legislation and the 2019 Anti-Racism Rally, and while I saw fellow Jews in attendance at them all, the numbers for both Jewish and all kinds of white allies at the Anti-Racism Rally was terribly low, especially in comparison – and yet racism is an issue which our society needs to address. I am also aware of the marginalization that many Black, Brown and Mizrahi Jews experience within Jewish spaces and by purportedly representative Jewish organizations. This too very much needs to be addressed.
Today’s blog is not a plea for us Jews, Ashkenazi and otherwise, to be there for others because we want them to be there for us. That would be wrongly motivated and against what I believe in – we should be doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing and should always treat others as we would want to be treated. Nor is this a deep dive into how we need to behave within our own Jewish community. That is too big a topic to be thrown in as aside note here; I would like to blog about this separately. But both of these notes are very much worth acknowledging when we do ask something which still and nonetheless needs to be asked and which I would love to know:
Who is with us?
Please let us know. Here is how you can stand with us.
Note: The last few paragraphs were added after the blog was published.