May 30, 2023

Certain words or phrases I hear when I am out and about make my "antenna" go up. You could understand that terms like Jewish, Judaism, and the like do that. As does the word antisemitism. This word has been at the forefront of my mind, as you could probably guess, based on my past columns, because it is such a hot-button topic for the Jewish world these days. But, it could also be because I have been spending so much time lately, as Executive Director, to combat it here in the greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.


For this reason, I got very excited back in December 2022 when the Second Gentleman, Doug Emhoff, announced that he was bringing together representatives from leading national Jewish organizations for a roundtable conversation to brainstorm ideas and discuss the rise of antisemitism in our country. This past Thursday, he, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Ambassador Susan Rice, and Dr. Liz Sherwood-Randall (White House Homeland Security Advisor) presented the White House's National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. I highly encourage you to watch the presentation by clicking here.


As I watched the presentation and saw how far-reaching the strategy will be implemented, I realized how perfectly our Jewish Federation's local efforts dove-tails the comprehensive national approach through our outreach to our local community's 48 city mayors and city councils. To date, 11 of our city councils (Claremont, Upland, Monrovia, Alhambra, Sierra Madre, San Gabriel, Temple City, Walnut, Diamond Bar, Pasadena, and Whittier) have passed resolutions denouncing antisemitism and all forms of hatred, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, and committed to work with targeted groups to address hate when it arises in their respective cities.


In my remarks I have made to city councils lately before they have voted to adopt their own resolutions, I share the following:


"While passing a resolution may feel symbolic, I want to assure you that it carries significant weight, especially for those impacted by the rise of hatred. It shows that your city stands with those targeted, and you are not okay with how they have been treated. And while we cannot legislate away antisemitism, racism, or other forms of hatred, this is an important first step."


There are times when an issue feels TOO big for any of us to tackle, let alone try and solve; we perceive that since our efforts will not make that much of a difference, we might as well not try. Often, combatting antisemitism can feel like this. I know that I have felt this way in the past. During her remarks on Thursday, Ambassador Lipstadt shared the important rabbinic teaching found in Pirkei Avot 2:16 "It is not up to you to finish the work, yet you are not free to avoid it."


With this in mind, here are a few things you can do to help this effort:


  1. Support our effort and Donate


  1. Contact your local city leaders to say thank you (if you live in one of the cities that have taken action) or encourage them to join our effort by passing their own resolution. 


  1. Report every antisemitic or hate incident, even if you feel it "was nothing" or don't think it will make a difference. When I speak with the ADL, the FBI, and even law enforcement, they all say to report every incident. This information helps them build cases, and by collecting this data, it will continue to impact local, state, and federal policies.


  1. Share this information with everyone you know and encourage them to join our effort. We need everyone to stand up to antisemitism and all forms of hatred.


I promise the Jewish Federation of the Greater San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys will continue our effort to combat antisemitism. And while we, along with the commitment from the White House with its National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, may not completely eradicate antisemitism and all forms of hate, we will help make a difference.


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