JCRC's thoughts on antisemitism
February 17, 2023
In a recently released survey, the Anti-Defamation League confirmed empirically what many have observed anecdotally: antisemitism is on the rise in the United States. The survey found that belief in antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories has doubled since 2019, and now stands at the highest level in decades. Anti-Israel sentiments were also found to be far more prevalent, going far beyond mere criticism of policy to a level that, as ADL CEO Johnathan Greenblatt described, is simply “antisemitism in another form.”
We have seen examples of this scourge in our local community, where hate groups that specifically target Jews have attempted to gain a foothold and influence people to join in their bigotry. The overall atmosphere of our country has emboldened these groups to act in a far more brazen manner than in previous years.
The Jewish Community Relations Council, a standing committee of Shalom Orlando, is the leading advocate for the Greater Orlando Jewish Community, and has committed to working toward the goal of eradicating antisemitism.
We asked our members to provide their thoughts on the best ways to approach the issue antisemitism in our local community and on the global stage. The following responses were provided:
Rabbi David Kay, JCRC member at large: “Overt acts of antisemitism are the tip of the iceberg. Ignorance and misunderstanding about Jews and Judaism take many forms, from the deliberate to the well-intended. Jews are a tiny minority — less than 3 percent of the U.S. and less than 0.5 percent of the world — and it’s easy to hate what you don’t know, to tell and believe exaggerations and falsehoods about what you don’t understand. Countering antisemitism requires creating opportunities for direct contact and conversation between Jews and non-Jews, disseminating accurate information, and clearly and unambiguously standing up to hateful speech and actions.”
Donna Render, JCRC member at large: “Our Jewish leadership and communities must push back every time antisemitism rears its ugly head. It needs to be called out no matter where the antisemites fall on the political spectrum. From the highly-organized and well-funded anti-Israel groups on campuses making Jewish students uncomfortable and fearful, to the white supremacists. We, as Jews, have to be as proactive — no one else is going to defend us, if we don’t rise to this challenge.”
Betsy Cohen, JCRC member representing Congregation Ohev Shalom: “Education and awareness are important when addressing these issues. This should be done with a positive connotation, rather than defensiveness and confrontation, to ensure that our voices are heard. Jewish organizations, business and government should also be in partnerships in bringing the different organizations into action, through networking, speaking engagements, and social media.”
Ming Marx, JCRC member at large: “Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion programs have become more prevalent, with large organizations investing millions of dollars in these initiatives designed to combat hatred and inequity through education of their workforces and engagement of corporate partners. During the last few years, much of this effort has been focused on combating racial. We, as Jews, should ask for inclusion in these initiatives, and provide them with enough resources to tackle the issue of antisemitism effectively.”
Robert Kushner, JCRC member representing Congregation for Reform Judaism: “The best way to combat antisemitism is to place a light on the good work the Jewish community in the Greater Orlando area does. Jewish Family Service provides essential services to both Jews and non-Jews, many synagogues and Jewish organizations provide meals to the homeless, clothing and supplies to in-need elementary students, and meals to shut-ins during Christmas. Negativity needs to be met with positivity.”
Dr. Reuben Romirowsky, JCRC member representing Rosen Jewish Community Center: “Our communal response to antisemitism must be put into action though the passage and enforcement of local and state legislation on hate speech and hate crimes that have consequences for perpetrators, while unabashedly countering hate with education and programs affirming Jewish identity”
Geanne Share (and Rabbi Joshua Neely), JCRC member representing Temple Israel: “All Jews need to stand together no matter where they fall on the political spectrum and be willing to condemn antisemitism no matter where it comes from. As the face of Judaism, in our daily life, we must let those around us know that antisemitism is hurting their friends, colleagues, neighbors, and fellow citizens. We need shared processes for making sure that those people and institutions that permit and shelter antisemitism and other forms of hate are held accountable.”
David Spalter, Chair, JCRC of Greater Orlando: “With so many extraneous forces working against us, we must double our efforts to recognize and focus on the things that unite us as a Jewish community. Our differences, whether they be grounded on political views, religious observance, or any other dividing line, must be put aside in favor of a joint effort to preserve and protect our common heritage and identity.”