Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA), reaffirms and expands its commitment to combat anti-Semitism at home and abroad. HWZOA deplores the increase in threats and acts of violence perpetrated against Jewish institutions, synagogues and Jewish individuals around the world.
The United States is experiencing an alarming increase in anti-Semitic incidents and attacks. October 2018 witnessed the deadliest attack committed against Jews in American history when a gunman opened fire at worshippers in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, murdering 11 and wounding many more. This represents a significant escalation from last year where a rising number of incidents including anti-Semitic graffiti, hate speech and digital harassment, bomb threats and Jewish cemetery desecrations occurred. Additionally, white nationalist groups, which have increased their membership and activity, are receiving greater attention from the political mainstream. Many of these groups include outspoken neo-Nazis and anti-Semites.
Recent studies in both the United States and Europe show that the Holocaust is fading from public memory, though many acknowledge that Holocaust education is still necessary. A survey conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany revealed staggering statistics about a lack of basic knowledge of the Holocaust among Americans: 31% of all Americans and 41% of millennials think that fewer than 2 million Jews were killed during the Holocaust; almost half of all Americans polled cannot name a single concentration camp, despite the fact that there were over 40,000 during WWII; 58% believe that something similar to the Holocaust could happen again, and more than 90% believe that all students should learn about the Holocaust in school. In Europe, over one-third of those polled responded that they knew “just a little” or “nothing at all” about the Holocaust, and one-third said that Jews today use the Holocaust to advance their own positions or gains.
Throughout the Muslim world, political and religious leaders frequently use anti-Semitic vitriol in statements. Schools use anti-Semitic curricula and state-sponsored, produced and distributed anti-Semitic materials. Schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which operates in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, teach with text books promoting Jihad (holy war) against Israel and Jews, espousing martyrdom, and using maps of the Middle East that do not have Israel on them-- all of this is against UN Charter guidelines.
In Europe, anti-Semitic political parties—such as Jobbik in Hungary, Rassemblement National in France, the Labour Party in the UK, Golden Dawn in Greece, the Law and Justice Party in Poland, and the Identitarian Movement (IB) in Germany—have caused great concern for local Jewish communities. According to a study by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, many European Jews reported a rise in anti-Semitism in their countries and avoid wearing kippot or other Jewish symbols in public because they fear for their personal safety. A recent CNN poll revealed that over a quarter of Europeans in the cross section of 7,000 polled believe that Jews have too much influence in business and finance. Nearly one in four said Jews have too much influence in conflict and wars across the world. One in five said that Jews have too much influence in the media and in politics.
Hadassah calls on all governments and religious leaders to end practices of incitement and hatred in all forms. Hadassah calls on the UN Secretary General, all heads of UN bodies and member states to denounce anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric. Hadassah calls on the UN to stop funding UNRWA until anti-Semitic curricula are removed. Hadassah calls on all nations and international bodies to establish or intensify their efforts to track, investigate and prosecute those responsible for anti-Semitic hate crimes, and to expand Holocaust and anti-hate education. Hadassah also urges political and religious leaders to denounce in the strongest possible terms all anti-Semitic attacks, statements, and propaganda.
Hadassah calls on the United States government to:
- Appoint a new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to ensure funding to support the vital work of the State Department Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
- Prioritize the swift passage of the Never Again Education Act, which will expand holocaust, genocide and anti-hate curricula nationwide.
- Use its resources and influence to urge international leaders to act upon the issue of global anti-Semitism.
- Promote collaboration and provide robust funding for the Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other government agencies to combat domestic anti-Semitism in all forms.
- Expand congressional efforts, including the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism to lead initiatives promoting tolerance worldwide, and serve as a platform to educate policymakers on this growing issue.
- Ensure that hate crimes and threats are punished to the fullest extent of the law and strengthen penalties for threats against individuals, houses of worship, educational institutions and community centers.
In the face of anti-Semitism, anti-hate and tolerance education is more important than ever. Hadassah urges educators and policymakers at the national level to promote the passage of new federal guidelines for instruction and investment in teacher training, and new and innovative curricula to be used on a discretionary basis and to provide supplementary support.