(Thursday, May 12, 2022) Last Thursday, on Israel’s Independence Day, during a celebratory event at the Nebraska Capitol Building, Governor of Nebraska Pete Ricketts made the historic decision to inaugurate May as Jewish American Heritage Month in the State of Nebraska, becoming the first American state to do so.
The Governor also proclaimed the official adoption by the State of Nebraska of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. In doing so, the number of American states that have adopted or endorsed the IHRA Definition is now 27, plus the District of Columbia, meaning the majority of all states now officially recognize it.
“We’ve seen a disturbing rise in antisemitism across the country,” said Governor Ricketts. “Here in Nebraska, we’re not immune to it. Someone painted a swastika on a synagogue here in Lincoln. We see this rise in antisemitism and must be aggressive in combatting it. We must let people know we will stand against hate.”
“When we see antisemitism we have to take very strong steps immediately to combat it. That’s why we want to make this proclamation to recognize the Jewish community’s contributions to Nebraska and the nation.”
Israel’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Oded Forer sent a letter of appreciation to Governor Ricketts for his adoption of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and the deep ties between Israel and Nebraska, which was read out at the event, in which he also commended the “significant gesture to recognize the deep and substantial contribution Jewish Americans have made and continue to make to Nebraska in particular and to the United States as a whole.”
The event was cosponsored by the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) which is a leading proponent of the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and has worked to have it adopted and endorsed in the U.S. and around the world, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Other partners included, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), Hadassah The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Representatives from each of Nebraska’s 8 synagogues, and the Jewish Federation of Omaha were in attendance.
“With the State of Nebraska’s endorsement, the majority of U.S. states have now adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, which is now a tipping point for its success, meaning that only a minority of states have yet to do so,” said Elan Carr, a Board Member of CAM, and former U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating antisemitism. “While there remains resistance to the IHRA Definition, it is a minority voice and is becoming increasingly drowned out by decision-makers and opinion-shapers across the U.S. and the world who are placing their authority behind it and leaving less room for antisemites to espouse their hate and intolerance.”
Nebraska Holocaust survivor and philanthropist Milton “Milt” Kleinberg said “I’m Jewish and I have always loved the free state of Nebraska. I could have taken my business to Texas, but Nebraska is home, and our governor is a friend.”
Other speakers included Consul General of Israel to the Midwest Yinam Cohen and Nebraska Secretary of State Robert Evnan.
According to a report released in March by CAM, almost 900 entities around the world have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism since 2016, including 37 nations, such as United States, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia and France.