Approximately 3,000 people showed up at a rally on Sunday in Washington DC to promote unity against anti-Semitism.
Rally to fight rise in anti-Semitism linked to conflict in Israel
The event comes in the wake of anti-Semitic violence that accompanied the conflict between Gaza and Israel. The Anti-Defamation League reported that During the two weeks of military conflict between Israel and Hamas in May 2021, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. increased by 75% compared to the two weeks before the fighting began. There has also been a disturbing rise in anti-Semitism on social media which included a trend of young Arabs posting Tik Tok videos of attacks on religious Jews in Israel.
But anti-Semitism continued after the conflict. Recent attacks against Jews in the US include the stabbing of a rabbi in Boston, vandalizations of synagogues and Jewish institutions, and even bullets fired at synagogues.
Intended to promote unity across a broad spectrum, the event was sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Committee, the Alliance for Israel, B’nai Brith International, Jewish National Fund, Hadassah, Israel Forever Foundation, the Jewish Federation of North America, StandWithUs, World Jewish Congress of North America, Birthright Israel, the Combat Antisemitism Movement, and the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Titled “No fear”, the rally held at the National Mall in front of the Capitol Building featured speakers Israeli actress and author Noa Tishby; Elisha Wiesel, son of the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; and Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
The rally also attracted support from across the spectrum of Jewish observance as it was endorsed by the Orthodox Union, Rabbinical Assembly, United Synagogues of Conservative Judaism, Union for Reform Judaism.
“It is time for the Jewish people and our allies to speak out against antisemitism with the many voices in our resilient community,” the rally’s website states. “Our tent is big. We welcome all Zionist, Jewish organizations, and allies. If you believe we have a right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish people both here in the United States and in Israel, then you belong with us.”
Before the rally, Wiesel emphasized that in the wake of the attack on Israel by Gaza, the rally was also intended as a show of solidarity with Israel.
“Bombs were falling on our brothers and sisters in Israel, and we were being attacked on streets in New York and restaurants in Los Angeles,” Wiesel told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). “I made a vow to myself, the next group that raised their hands, I would call them and offer to raise funds.”
This was echoed in an email sent out by Alan Ronkin, the director of the American Jewish Committee Washington DC.
“The precipitous rise in antisemitic attacks across the country, some violent, linked with growing protests against Israel, cannot be ignored,” the email read. “Antisemitism is a societal problem, and the No Fear Rally will bring together the Jewish community and our allies to jointly express outrage and demand meaningful action.”
The rally was ostensibly bipartisan with the chairmen of both the Republican Jewish Coalition, former Sen. Norm Coleman, and the Jewish Democratic Council of America, former Congressman Ron Klein, addressing the crowd.
“The fight against antisemitism is not a partisan issue,” declared Coleman. “We stand united in the belief that each of us has a responsibility to call out antisemitism in the political arena, whether it is in our own party or whether it rears its ugly face on the other side of the aisle.”
But the call to action was rejected by several large Jewish groups with a left-wing agenda. This included J Street, T’ruah and Americans for Peace Now. Steve Rabinowitz, a public relations specialist with deep experience working for Democrats, Jewish groups and progressive groups, noted that Israel is incredibly divisive among Jews in America.
“We can have an agreement on antisemitism, but there are a million differences on Israel,” he said. “I wish we could leave that debate for another day.”
Hadar Susskind, American for Peace Now’s president, explained to JTA that the differences with the other groups at the rally went far deeper than support for Israel.
“It’s not just that we disagree with these groups on other issues, we disagree with these groups on this issue,” he said, referring to how one defines antisemitism. One such issue is the anti-Israel Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement which some see as anti-Semitic. Susskind does not equate anti-Israel with anti-Semitism.
“This rally looks like it will conflate criticism of the occupation and criticism of Israeli actions with anti-Zionism, and will say anti-Zionism is antisemitic, and we want no part of that,” he said.
Wiesel emphasized that since anti-Semitism should be the uniting factor, groups that place an extreme agenda, be it to the left or the right, would be excluded.
“We don’t want haters and we don’t want one-staters,” he said. “If you’re a Kahanist, or if you say it’s okay if Israel goes away, you’re not welcome.”