While antisemitism on the right and left are different, both require our attention. Here’s how we can transform our communities in order to effectively meet this serious challenge:
- We need to adopt a culture of security. Anyone who has ever visited another Diaspora Jewish community knows that Jewish communities abroad invariably place a high premium on security. The American Jewish community has always been an exception. Many American Jewish communities have already invested heavily in security at local institutions and synagogues. Thankfully, with organizations like the Secure Community Network in place, local communities have the expertise they need to develop a culture of security. We can no longer be lax.
- We need to strengthen and grow our civic alliances. Jewish communities need more friends on both sides of the political spectrum. We need stronger ties to Latinos, African Americans, Asian Americans, Catholics, Evangelicals, Mainline Protestants, city council members, governors, business leaders, law enforcement, university administrators, and others. We need to go deeper and wider. The more people we know, the more relationships we build, the more effective we will be in safeguarding the pluralistic society that has made America a uniquely welcoming place for Jews and other minorities.
- We need to train and equip a generation of activists. To ameliorate hyper-polarization, which gives rise to antisemitism, we need to cultivate a generation of Jewish leaders who can go beyond their ideological bubbles and productively engage with people who think differently. We must all learn to hold multiple truths and to speak with nuance. We must help emerging activists understand that compromise, moderation, and civility – too often dismissed as qualities of the weak-willed – are actually exemplars of courageous and transformative leadership.
- We need to become more sophisticated in publicly combating antisemitism. For many years, our only approach to fighting antisemitism was to condemn and marginalize. We denounced bigoted speech, hoping it would flee to the margins. But that approach fails us in certain contexts, and it’s time we expand our repertoire. We need to learn when to condemn, and when to engage. When to isolate, and when to accept a heartfelt apology. We need new approaches to educating the public about what we consider antisemitism – especially when it’s not clear-cut – before we censure the guilty party, because not everyone sees what we see.
- We need to strengthen fundraising around security and community relations. With its network of relations with non-Jewish leaders and organizations, JCRCs are a Jewish community’s best vehicle for combating antisemitism. Federations can benefit by embracing their JCRCs and highlighting their impact in efforts to identify and energize donors.
- We need to invest in local communities with smaller Jewish populations. Antisemitism flourishes in communities where there is not a strong Jewish presence. From there, it incubates and spreads. We need to support smaller Jewish communities with more resources, guidance, and tools to effectively combat antisemitism.
We have our work cut out for us. It is a shift we must make.
Jackie Congedo is Director, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. @cincyjcrc
David Bernstein is President and CEO, Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA). @DavidLBernstein