November 10, 2022
In November, 2022, The Seattle Times – the largest daily newspaper in the Pacific Northwest - endorsed the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The editorial urged other cities to follow the lead of Bellevue, WA, which became the first city in the region to formally adopt the IHRA definition last month.
AJC Seattle was proud to work hand-in-glove with Bellevue's Deputy Mayor, Jared Neiwenhuis, and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer Dr. Linda Whitehead, to take action and send a clear, unequivocal message - that Jews can and should be empowered to define the hate we face, rather than allow others to define it for us.
This editorial should not be a moment in time, here today but gone tomorrow. It should serve as a clarion call to all who care about our issues, especially in moments of rising antisemitism and proliferation of anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, that the time for action is now. We will not sit passively in the face of hate, bigotry, and vitriol, nor will we wait to be asked for comment when the inevitable next incident occurs.
If you have a Facebook or LinkedIn account, post the editorial. If you have Twitter, tweet it. Email it to your friends and family, share it with members of your congregation, and if you live outside of Bellevue, be sure to send it to your mayor. If you have a carrier pigeon, tie last Friday's newspaper to its leg and launch it into the air. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks once wrote that "Judaism is, par excellence, a religion of responsibility." We have a responsibility to make the most of this moment, and to build for a stronger future for Jews in our region, and beyond.
Follow Bellevue’s example to fight antisemitism
By The Seattle Times editorial board
It should be no surprise that Jews around Seattle and the rest of the nation are watching the rise in antisemitic rhetoric with consternation and worry.
Societies under stress find scapegoats. Pandemic isolation, economic turbulence and escalating political violence have pushed dark theories and ancient prejudices out in the open. Misunderstandings about Judaism fuel outrageous fears and repugnant attacks.
Every Saturday, Jews gather at synagogues to sing and chant God’s praises. Congregants also check the exits and ask ushers about hired security that may be watching the doors. Many have taken first aid classes that teach people how to stanch gunshot wounds.
This is not paranoia or insecurity, but a natural reaction to open threats. The aggressively anti-Jewish diatribe of the influential musician and fashion creator Kanye West, now known as Ye, was more than a dog whistle. It was a bullhorn of hate blasted by someone with millions of social-media followers and billion-dollar tennis shoe sales.
Basketball star Kyrie Irving was suspended for posting a “documentary” that the Anti-Defamation League says includes “claims of a global Jewish conspiracy to oppress and defraud Black people, allegations that Jews are in part responsible for the transatlantic slave trade and the claim that Jews falsified the history of the Holocaust in order to ‘conceal their nature and protect their status and power.’”
Former Seattle Seahawks and Las Vegas Raiders linebacker K.J. Wright recently apologized after he came to the defense of Irving on Twitter. Wright should be commended for taking responsibility and remaining open to the notion that he got something wrong. This is how minds and hearts change for the good.
Elected officials, community leaders and corporate executives must step up and condemn words and actions, said Regina Sassoon Friedland, regional director in Seattle of the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization. Silence is complicity. But to address anti-Jewish hate, an even more fundamental question should be answered, she said.
“The first place to start, there needs to be an understanding of who Jews are — are you a religion or a people? What is antisemitism? All too often, it loses its meaning.”
In October, Bellevue became the first city in the Pacific Northwest to adopt an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism to fight anti-Jewish hatred.
The proclamation, spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee, says: “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.”
Bellevue will use these words to respond and provide training and education. Other cities should follow its example.
There is no accurate number of hate crimes against Jews locally. In 2006, a Washington extremist harboring antisemitic views and anger about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forced his way into the offices of the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, killed one staff person and seriously injured five more.
For many Jews, the consequence of all this has been to try and blend into the background, to follow that age-old directive in times of trouble — don’t attract attention. That means not wearing the kippah skull cap or certain jewelry.
In a well-functioning society, such demonstrations of faith and culture would seem safe, normal and ordinary. That is the place we should collectively aspire to create.