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The Truth Isn’t Enough; We Have To act

Jew-hatred in America is something that most Americans would rather not think about because of how it reflects on who we are, what we believe, and where we are headed as a nation. But being blind, deaf, and silent isn’t working. On our watches, America became a place where Jews are attacked inside restaurants, sent running from an attempted car ramming, and attacked with glass bottles thrown while getting of a school bus. The alarms are blaring.

Today, Jews are under attack from coast to coast. The Anti-Defamation League’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents shows that the number of antisemitic events in the United States last year surpassed annual totals dating back more than four decades. Antisemitic assaults against Americans increased by 167 percent year-over-year. In public schools, antisemitic assaults rose by 106 percent.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jewish Federations of North America, American Jewish Committee, and Christians United for Israel are responding by normalizing a widely accepted international definition of antisemitism as a starting point to building tolerance. And our efforts are finding warm receptions in state capitals.

State leaders do not want to see their backyards become a haven for bigotry, and there has been a surge in the number of states that have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism. Many are also exploring proactive measures to roll back antisemitism and ensure it can never again take root. Time and again, the answer is Holocaust education, which is in a pathetic condition across the country.

Tangible progress has been made to increase the likelihood that the next generation will at least have a real understanding of the genocide by which all others are measured, but the heavy lifting can’t be done exclusively by big organizations. Extensive work must be done at the local level by like-minded neighbors. The simple truth is that today the concepts of tolerance and universal education are among the most politicized elements of our American experience, and all politics remains local.

It’s therefore up to you – the parent, the Rabbi, the local community macher – to effect change in your small corner of the world. Examine what your local school teaches its students about the Holocaust and antisemitism. Find out if your school’s social studies teachers know about and have access to the free expert resources available to improve their confidence and effectiveness in teaching such an immense tragedy. Most importantly, personalize the experiences of your people and family for the students at your school.

The last Holocaust Survivor will pass away in many of our lifetimes. Yet across the country there are Jewish students whose grandparents and great grandparents were victims and survivors of Nazi atrocities. American Jews of European ancestry should share a written account of their family’s story with local educators in the hopes that teachers will use such narratives to educate students about the Holocaust, noting in conclusion that the descendants of the people the students have just learned about are in fact the students’ schoolmates.

We can make progress against antisemitism by taking action, but we can never truly hope to win until we shed the false confidence that the truth alone will lead us to victory. Truth is never enough. Moreover, we must abandon the delusion that because something matters to us it will therefore speak to everyone else. Communities, neighbors and friends must be met where they are, not where we wish them to be.

Our story is bigger and more powerful than difficult-to-fathom statistics. Be personal. And discard any preconceived notions (or worse yet disdain) about the people you’re trying to reach. Above all else, you must take it upon yourself to cast aside the grand gestures, replacing them with the local, incremental and hard work necessary to changing the future, one school, one teacher and one student at a time.

Ari Morgenstern is the Senior Director of Policy and Communications for Christians United for Israel.

About the Author
Ari Morgenstern is the Senior Director for Policy and Communications for Christians United for Israel.
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