Hadassah Hosts Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt at National Assembly for Insightful Discussion on Combating Antisemitism

March 16, 2023

Hadassah Hosts Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt at National Assembly for Insightful Discussion on Combating Antisemitism

On January 9, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, and Hadassah member, spoke with Hadassah National President Rhoda Smolow and members of Hadassah’s National Assembly about the importance of standing up to intolerance and hate and her work to fight antisemitism around the globe.

“The level of antisemitism we’re seeing today may not be that different from what we’ve seen in the past. The difference is that today there’s social media, a delivery system of unbelievable speed and reach,” said Ambassador Lipstadt when asked what elements fuel the current alarming rise in antisemitism online. “Ideas that once would only reach a few people can now reach a large community in no time.”

Hadassah works to counter antisemitism through education and advocacy and cultivating Zionist identity and pride. As Hadassah members are increasingly concerned about antisemitism masked as criticism of Israel, Rhoda Smolow asked Ambassador Lipstadt about why antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric can sometimes overlap.

“What some people would call criticism of Israel frequently morphs into antisemitism and relies on antisemitic language. Criticism of Israel and antisemitism are not always one and the same, but very often they are. That is one of the things we have to be extremely careful about,” said Ambassador Lipstadt. “Criticism of some of Israel’s policies doesn’t ipso facto make you antisemitic; I think it’s very important to know when a person is expressing the view that I think politically is wrong or unjustified, and when are they expressing it in an antisemitic context or engaging in antisemitism.”

When asked what more Hadassah can do to help fight antisemitism in all its forms, Ambassador Lipstadt mentioned the new White House interagency group developed to identify new ways to fight antisemitism and noted that it will take everyone working together. She also noted that doing so is critical for the health of our democracy.

“It calls for a whole society approach. There is increased recognition that this is not a niche issue. Antisemitism has broader implications,” said Ambassador Lipstadt. “It is the canary in the coal mine for democracy. No society, no country has tolerated the existence of antisemitism and stayed a healthy democracy. That is something to keep in mind that while you’re fighting for the welfare of Jews and Jewish communities, you are also fighting for the future of democracy.”

But there is also something Hadassah members can do individually - they can speak out wisely, calmly, but forcefully. It can be at the market, your children’s school, at the gym, wherever. Let people know that one of the great dangers of antisemitism is its normalization; i.e. allowing it to become part of everyday discourse. Educate yourself on what you may want to say in such a situation and then take action. This is an all-hands-on-deck moment that requires everyone's effort if we are to counter antisemitism in all its forms.

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