Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
AFTA condemns the brutal Chanukah attacks in New York State, the New Jersey shooting, and the numerous acts of violence targeting Jews in New York City that have all occurred in recent weeks. As a community we decry these specific hate-crimes, and as systems-thinkers we know that to narrow our focus to that of recent events is to constrain our understanding of the problem of anti-Semitism, impede the process of change and obscure possibilities for resistance.
Anti-semitism must be understood as a pervasive force in our contemporary social world that reaches both far into the past and forward into every part of our public and relational lives. Today’s Jews comprise a diverse group1, differing from one another in religious beliefs, practices, cultural heritage and racial identity 2 and 3 while sharing the experience of living with and through the tenacious undercurrent of anti-Semitism in their wider communities. Although not all American Jews identify as white or of European descent, Jews in the U.S. have largely benefited from white privilege and assimilation into American society while simultaneously enduring pervasive anti-Semitic thought and action4.
It is important for us to take pause and reflect on our assumptions about the inevitability of prejudice and violence as part and parcel of American culture, and acknowledge that the anti-Semitism we are seeing at present is not simply more of the same. An emboldened anti-Jewish sentiment has recently manifested across the country in unapologetic violent action5, including but not limited to the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, PA, the deadliest act of anti-Semitism in American history. The Anti Defamation League’s most recent Audit of Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S.6 recorded 1,879 acts in 2018, highlighting a dramatic increase in physical assaults. According to NYPD data, of the 421 hate crimes reported in New York City in 2019, more than half were directed at Jews.7
AFTA recognizes anti-Semitism as a system of thought that is destructive to our collective humanity - One that has worked across time and across cultures performing the work of domination8 and fueling white supremacy culture9.This ancient and deeply embedded hostility towards Jews10 must be countered, rather than tolerated, by each and all of us. The rise of expressed anti-Semitism in the United States must be condemned, rather than fomented, by those holding positions of political, economic and social power. As individuals, as an organization, and as a nation we must speak up in solidarity with Jews in the U.S. to challenge injustice. We must harness hope and engage respect for one group with the knowledge that to do so will foster support of others targeted by hate. We must heed the wisdom espoused by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and speak, act and love from the assumption that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”11
Sarah Berland, Family Policy and Human Rights Committee Chair
Hinda Winawer, AFTA Past President, Family Policy and Human Rights Committee Member
- Pew Research Center (2019, April 15). Sharp Rise in the Share of Americans Saying Jews Face Discrimination.https://www.people-press.org/2019/04/15/sharp-rise-in-the-share-of-americans-saying-jews-face-discrimination/
- Lovett, I. (2019, Dec 17). Rise in Anti-Semitic Incidents Goes Beyond Recent Violent Attacks.https://www.wsj.com/articles/rise-in-anti-semitic-incidents-goes-beyond-recent-violent-attacks-11576611407
- Anti Defamation League. Anti-Semitism in the US.. https://www.adl.org/what-we-do/anti-semitism/anti-semitism-in-the-us
- Editorial Board. (2020, Jan 1). It’s an Old and Insidious Hatred. And New Yorkers Can’t Stand for It. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/01/opinion/anti-semitism-new-york.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
- Chotiner, I. (2020, Jan 2). How Anti-Semitism Rises on the Left and Right.https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-anti-semitism-rises-on-the-left-and-right
- Ward, E. (December 3, 2017). Forcefully Opposing Anti-Semitism must be a core principle of the movement to combat white supremacy. https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/250608/forcefully-opposing-anti-semitism-must-be-a-core-principle-of-the-movement-to-combat-white-supremacy
- Goldberg, J. (2015, April).Is It Time for the Jews to Leave Europe? https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/04/is-it-time-for-the-jews-to-leave-europe/386279/
- King, Jr., M.L., speech: https://youtu.be/KjlX7esSFII