Diaspora and Israeli Jews are responsible for each other
September 11, 2020
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, of which the United States is a member, adopted a non-legally binding “working definition of antisemitism” at its plenary on May 26, 2016, in Bucharest, Romania.
Since then IHRA’s 42 member and observer states and many nonmember countries throughout the world, as well as non-governmental international organizations, have adopted the definition; and have used it in legislating hate crimes and in formulating public policy dealing with antisemitism.
As a member of IHRA, the U.S. State Department and all other government agencies now use this working definition; and the Administration continues to encourage other governments and international organizations to adopt it as well. The official text of the working definition of antisemitism is: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The “working definition of antisemitism” has been officially translated into 24 languages; and to understand the full breath and meaning of the definition, the IHRA has also embraced numerous official examples of antisemitism within the IHRA definition.
Among these are the following:
• Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
• Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide than to the interests of their own nations.
• Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
• Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.
Space limitations precludes me from listing more examples embraced by the IHRA definition.
What many of these examples of antisemitism have in common is that the perpetrators of antisemitic acts do not distinguish between an individual Jew, an Israeli, the Jewish people or the State of Israel.
This is why the terrorist blowing up a coffee house in Israel is the same enemy as the arsonist who burns a synagogue or a Chabad house on an American college campus. This is why the right wing or left wing antisemitic extremist in America paints graffiti on an American synagogue wall saying “Free Palestine.” The perpetrator means to eliminate Israel as well as the congregants of that synagogue. This is why murdering Israeli civilians at a wedding in the Israeli city of Netanya is no different than killing Sabbath worshippers in a synagogue in the American city of Pittsburgh, or gunning down Jewish shoppers at a kosher market in Paris, France.
Why am I writing about such depressing ideas in the month of Elul, as we prepare ourselves for Rosh Hashanah, the holiday of renewal, introspection and repentance? It is because at this time of year all Jews at whatever level of religious or secular observance use this time to examine their lives in terms of relationships with their family, their community, their country and their ethnicity.
We approach the High Holy Days as Americans divided and as Jews divided. This is not the way it should be. Abraham Lincoln said it more than 165 years ago, “A house divided against itself cannot stand”; and let us not forget our own Jewish history in Sinai how disunity among the people almost forfeited our opportunity to be given the Torah.
Contemporary antisemitism sees no differences among the Jewish people. Antisemites from the left and the right attack us as one people, so one people we should be.
Although we cannot be physically together on these High Holy Days, I hope the sound of the shofar will be our call to unity for all the Jewish people in the Diaspora and in the Land of Israel. Wishing all a L’Shana Tova.
If you wish to comment or respond you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do so in a rational, thoughtful, respectful and civil manner.
Mel Pearlman holds B.S. & M.S. degrees in physics as well as a J.D. degree and initially came to Florida in 1966 to work on the Gemini and Apollo space programs. He has practiced law in Central Florida since 1972. He has served as president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Orlando; was a charter board member, first vice president and pro-bono legal counsel of the Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Central Florida, as well as holding many other community leadership positions.