January 5, 2020
On Sunday, January 5, AJC CEO David Harris addressed the #NoHateNoFear #JewishandProud rally in Cadman Plaza, Brooklyn after more than 25,000 people marched from Manhattan over the Brooklyn Bridge. Harris addressed rising antisemitism in America and around the world.
Shalom chaverim. Hello, dear friends.
I am the first person in my entire extended family born in the United States.
I learned several things from my late parents, who both survived the Shoah, the Holocaust – and, in my mother’s case, who survived Stalin’s communism as well.
I learned the principle of “Am echad,” one people. We are one people. And no one should ever divide us.
I learned the principle of “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” all Jews are responsible one for the other. The Nazis never distinguished between Jew and Jew, between religious and secular, kippah wearing or not, Zionist or not. How could we?
I learned God bless America. The country that became not just their home, but their haven. The country that was their refuge from the demons of the past. They believed in America. I believe in America. Truth be told, they would be spinning in their graves today if they knew the reasons we were gathered here at Cadman Plaza.
And I learned gratitude for the rebirth of the State of Israel. For the chance for the Jewish people to chart our own destiny in our ancestral land. As we sing in Hatikvah, Israel’s national anthem. Lihyot 'am chofshi be'artzenu. To be a free people in our own land.
And all of these lessons were reinforced when I met my wife in the 1970’s. She was the victim of another form of Jew-hatred in her native Libya. She became one of those forgotten refugees – the Jews who lived for centuries and millennia in this part of the world, and who were driven out. There is not a single Jew left in Libya today. Not one.
Ladies and gentlemen, the demons are now back. Make no mistake about it. That’s why we gather here. Let’s be crystal clear, as we at AJC have been saying consistently since the year 2000. The sources are multiple.
For years, initially in Europe, where the resurgence began, and now here, we’ve pursued the same approach.
First, we’re asking officials to see the problem as it is. Don’t pretend it’s not there.
In that vein, Devorah Halberstam, whom you heard from a few moments ago, spent eight years trying to get our government to redefine the murder of her son, Ari, not as an act of road rage, but as the act of terrorism it so clearly was. She succeeded. But why did it take eight years?
Secondly, don’t weaponize antisemitism for political advantage. There are those who only want to see it as a white supremacist problem. It is, but not only. Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, Poway, prove that it is. Monsey, Jersey City, Brooklyn, prove that it’s not.
Think of that congresswoman from Michigan, the one who tweeted after Jersey City that “White supremacy kills.” But when it was revealed that the murderers in Jersey City appeared to be motivated by the Black Hebrew movement, the congresswoman was forced to delete that tweet, but suddenly lost interest in the murderers. That’s weaponizing antisemitism. Say no! Call it out!
Third, antisemitism is not a Jewish problem for Jews to solve. Antisemitism is a non-Jewish problem for non-Jews to solve! Let’s be clear about that.
Of course, we need to be involved, all of us. We must build bridges. The Brooklyn Bridge we just crossed is an apt symbol of what we need to be doing.
We also need heightened vigilance. And speaking of heightened vigilance, how about a shoutout for Joseph Gluck of Monsey? Joseph Gluck, the improbable hero in Rabbi Rottenberg’s home, who grabbed the table and who attacked the attacker, who drove him out of the house, and who had the presence of mind to capture his license plate number, which led the NYPD, bless the NYPD, to arrest him.
I met Joseph a few days ago in Monsey. He said he was the unlikeliest of heroes, but that Hashem, God, had led him to his bravery. May Hashem inspire us all to courage and bravery.
And we need the power of government mobilized on all levels in a sustained fashion. Not episodically, not intermittently, not simply after an event, because we don’t yet have a Jonas Salk to create a vaccine against the world’s oldest social pathology, antisemitism.
Moreover, we need serious prosecution. We need what we’ve now seen in Monsey – no more slaps on the wrist. No more revolving doors for the perpetrators. In fact, too many victims, we’re told, will not even report hate crimes because they don’t believe the system will respond. The system must respond. People must feel confidence in the system in order to report.
And we need a zero-tolerance policy from civil society as well.
Shame on ten million British voters who cast their ballots last month for a party infested with antisemitism and anti-Zionism.
Shame on those politicians who send appeals, overt or subtle, to white nationalism or white supremacy, or who link arms with them politically.
Shame on those politicians who avert their eyes while members of their own political party tweet antisemitic messages or call for a boycott of Israel – the only Jewish majority nation on earth and the only liberal democracy in the Middle East.
Shame on those high schools and colleges, including right here in New York, that have allowed antisemitism, however disguised, to infest the classroom and the quad.
And shame on those social media companies that have confused freedom of speech with corporate social responsibility. Social media must never become a cesspool for hatred, antisemitism, incitement, and recruitment.
Lastly, we need to link arms with all people of goodwill, here in New York, here in America, and around the world, just as we’re doing today, because an assault on any group is an assault on every group. It is an assault on the values that bind us together as Americans.
We are all endangered, we are all diminished, we are all at risk, if violent hatred, whatever its source, is at work.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “We must all live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” Am Yisrael Chai! The people of Israel live!