Trump vs. Clinton; anti-Semitism and Islamophobia in France; the “Jewish State” Law in Israel. What do these three conflicts have in common? All three cases mark a centuries-old conflict over divergent views of nationhood. [Read more…]
— by Eric Hananoki
A. J. Delgado, a senior adviser to Republican nominee Donald Trump, retweeted a Trump endorsement from an anti-Semitic website that started an online campaign harassing Jewish people.
Members of the alt-right and white nationalist movement have been heavily supporting Trump’s campaign, and the candidate and his team have been courting members of the movement, including appearing in white nationalist media, refusing to denounce them, and retweeting their messages.
On October 11, Delgado retweeted the anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff, which wrote:
At this point anyone not insane enough to want a war with Russia should vote Trump.
The Right Stuff started the virulently anti-Semitic “parenthesis meme” in which Jewish names are surrounded by parentheses — “(((name)))” — often in order to target them for online abuse on social media. The Anti-Defamation League has added the symbol to its online database of hate symbols, with CEO Jonathan Greenblatt stating:
The echo symbol is the online equivalent of tagging a building with anti-Semitic graffiti or taunting someone verbally.
According to The Right Stuff’s editors, they started the parenthesis meme because “all Jewish surnames echo throughout history.” They add: “The inner parenthesis represent the Jews’ subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism.”
The site’s leader, Mike Enoch, told The Guardian that the site believes in racial separation:
Other adherents emphasize their desire for racial separatism. Mike Enoch, from the site the Right Stuff, a major hub for the dissemination of alt-right materials, says: “The core principle, in my view, is ethno-nationalism, meaning that nations should be as ethnically and racially homogeneous as possible.
Enoch wrote in a Reddit AMA on the “Alt Right” subreddit that “if there had been a more stingent [sic] restriction on Jews entering academia and the media and lobbying politically many problems would not have arisen. The country was basically given over to Jews after 1965 and they had lots of power even before that.”
He added: “I think the idea that race is the foundation of a nation is the key. And yeah, I stand by that statement. I don’t care if a country has a social healthcare policy or something like that as long as it is white.”
The American Jewish Committee (AJC) The AJC was founded in 1906. The impetus for creating this organization was the news of the pogroms against Jews in the Russian Empire. The AJC’s mission was to “prevent infringement of the civil and religious rights of Jews and to alleviate the consequences of persecution,” no matter where they were occurring. The AJC is still going strong today, advocating for religious pluralism, Muslim-Jewish relations, and Jewish students on campus. One of the AJC’s most important areas of activism is in combating the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement. [Read more…]
After profiling Melania Trump in GQ, journalist Julia Ioffe received a deluge of anti-Semitic threats and comments. The article below, which was reprinted from The Daily Kos, describes Melania Trump’s response to the verbal attacks on Ioffe.After dispensing with the obligatory statement that she disagrees with the vile antisemitic letters sent by her (and presumably her husband’s) NeoNazi fans to a journalist, Melania Trump then went on to side with the same NeoNazis by saying that Julia Ioffe “provoked” the hateful antisemitic death threats in her profile of Melania Trump for GQ.
“I don’t control my fans,” Melania says, “but I don’t agree with what they’re doing. I understand what you mean, but there are people out there who maybe went too far. She provoked them.”
You can see some of the disgusting hate mail and read about the death threats and phone calls Julia Ioffe has received. Ioffe’s family came to the United States 26 years ago fleeing antisemitism.
By chance I read the profile of Melania Trump in GQ this weekend. It in no way provokes NeoNazi antisemitism, if that’s even possible, which if so I personally can’t understand. I challenge anyone to read the GQ article and defend Melania’s disgusting views on this. Jewish people certainly don’t provoke NeoNazi death threats by writing factual articles. If we applied Melania Trump’s beliefs to all American journalists. . . I can’t even process how vile this is. It also makes me very much doubt whether the first part of her statement is anything more than her saying what she feels she has to in a public forum.
Since this is evidently how Melania Trump really sees the world, I believe I now know exactly how she and Trump discovered they were soul mates.
“The French Jews are the canary in the coal mine,” Simone Rodan-Benzaquen told me. Ms. Benzaquen, the director of the American Jewish Committee in Europe, related that anti-Semitism in Western Europe is a very serious problem. Europe is the laboratory for how to contend with it in 2016. If the fight against anti-Semitism fails in Europe, it will fail in the United States as well.
Anti-Semitism is a crisis for liberal democracies. The members of the extreme left (anti-Zionists), the members of the extreme right, and some parts of the Muslim community have found common cause. They all hate Jews. This crisis starts with the Jews, but it doesn’t end there.
The Centrist parties are not discussing the problems within the Muslim community due to political correctness. The Populist parties are filling the void by asking the right questions. They are addressing the issues of integration, Islamism, and how to make Islam compatible with democratic values.
What can the Centrist parties do? Ms. Benzaquen suggested several solutions. First, they must speak out clearly. They need to call Islamist extremism what it is and identify the sources of the problems.
The educational system offers an opportunity to impact young pupils and shape the future adults of France. During the past several years, students have refused to learn about the Holocaust in certain neighborhoods. Their teachers retreated because they were afraid of being attacked. France needs to invest the resources to train teachers in new methodologies so they can deal with these issues. Holocaust education is important for them because it illustrates how a society can behave and how individuals can choose to behave. It is an opportunity to teach tolerance, and to accept diversity.
France does not recognize individual communities; everyone is French. In order to counter Islamic radicalization, the authorities must reach out to the Muslim community to spot signs of radicalization. It is only then that they can begin to contend with it.
One of the most effective ways that the Islamic radicals influence and recruit young people is with social media. In France, speech is free, within limits. The French government can shut down social media sites due to incitement. The platforms used by these Islamists are based in the United States. Initially, the US-based companies did not feel that they were obligated to comply with French laws. The European Commission passed a law that requires social media companies to follow European laws in order to be available there. This has made it easier for the French authorities to shut down sites dedicated to Islamic radicalization.
The signs in Europe point to a worrisome future in the United States. The Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) movement on university campuses and the expression of anti-Semitism online are creating a hostile environment for Jews. We live in a globalized world. There is no escaping anti-Semitism by moving from country to country. What kind of world do we want?
Ira Forman’s job is to identify and pursue anti-Semitism around the world. As a result, he knows where the trends are particularly disturbing and where there is reason to have hope. Recently, he brought this knowledge and experience to Philadelphia when he served as the keynote speaker for the closing board meeting of the local Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
Forman works in the State Department’s Office of Religion and Global Affairs in the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. He was appointed to this position three years ago by Secretary of State John Kerry. Forman has an extensive resume, which, among other things, includes his work as Jewish outreach director for the Obama campaign, CEO and executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC), and — very early in his career — political director and legislative liaison for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).
At the meeting in Philadelphia, Forman gave a run-down of the Jewish communities he has visited and discussed what the future may hold for Jews in those countries. For example, he pointed to a particularly disturbing survey of French Jews — which even pre-dated the Paris attacks — in which 47% said they were considering leaving France. Forman was then asked about the heartening response of thousands of French citizens who marched in support of the victims of the Charlie Hebdo and Hyper Kacher attacks. He said it was believed that if the Charlie Hebdo journalists had not also been killed, the response by non-Jews on behalf of the Jewish community would not have been as strong.
However, Forman did express hope for some smaller Jewish communities. He also emphasized that outside the United States, England seems to be the most secure place for Jews to live.
In order to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Forman and his staff travel the world. They often work in cooperation with agencies like the ADL, as well as with other nonprofits and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
Photo by Bonnie Squires
Pope Francis welcomed more than 100 leaders of the World Jewish Congress (WJC) on Wednesday and issued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism.
At a private audience with WJC President Ronald S. Lauder in the morning, the Pontiff made it clear that outright attacks against Israel’s existence are a form of anti-Semitism:
To attack Jews is anti-Semitism, but an outright attack on the State of Israel is also anti-Semitism. There may be political disagreements between governments and on political issues, but the State of Israel has every right to exist in safety and prosperity.
Jews and Catholics marked the anniversary of the 1965 declaration Nostra Aetate, which condemned anti-Semitism and completely transformed and improved relations between Jews and Catholics.
Lauder praised the Pope for this powerful message and said relations between the two faiths were stronger than they had ever been before:
Pope Francis does not simply make declarations. He inspires people with his warmth and his compassion. His clear and unequivocal support for the Jewish people is critical to us.
Nearly 150 delegates and observers from the World Jewish Congress Governing Board took part in the public audience with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. The delegates were in Rome for the Board’s annual meeting.
The pope recalled Nostra Aetate, a declaration adopted on 28 October 1965 by the Second Vatican Council:
Indifference and opposition were transformed into cooperation and benevolence. Enemies and strangers have become friends and brothers. The Council, with the declaration Nostra Aetate, paved the way. It said yes to the rediscovery of the Jewish roots of Christianity, and no to any form of anti-Semitism and condemnation of any insult, discrimination and persecution derived from that.
On Tuesday, the WJC Governing Board, representing more than 100 Jewish communities around the world, held discussions which focused on the implications facing Jewish communities in light of the various conflicts in the Middle East, including the threat of jihadist terrorism.
The Governing Board reaffirmed its continued support of a two State solution and urged Israel and the Palestinian Authority to resume peace talks without preconditions as soon as possible.
The Board also called on the international community to maintain and, if necessary, expand sanctions on Iran until there is verification and international acceptance of Iran’s compliance with all the conditions of the nuclear deal.
Concerning the refugee crisis, the delegates passed a resolution calling on the international community to provide refugees with sanctuary irrespective of origin or religion, recalling the Talmudic maxim that says, “He who saves a single life saves the whole world.”
— by Greg Rosenbaum
Ms. Coulter, since you asked so nicely, there are approximately 6.5 million Jews living in the United States. Furthermore, the vast majority of that population voted for President Obama in 2012, and we will continue to vote for Democratic candidates in 2016 and beyond.
After hearing 15 conservative Republican candidates:
- praise failed foreign policies that, among other horrendous consequences, damaged Israel and the vital alliance between the US and Israel;
- attack those seeking to marry the people they love while defending the right to discriminate against them;
- demonize an organization that provides crucial health care to women in need;
- deny the existence of climate change exactly when scientists found 2015 to be the warmest year in our planet’s recorded history; and
- dangerously spread the lie that vaccinations are tied to autism,
we have no doubt that the American Jewish community will remain overwhelmingly with the Democratic party.
Perhaps, Ann, you did not get the memo from GOP headquarters that Israel is supposed to be a partisan wedge issue, designed to peel off Jewish voters from the Democratic Party. After all, putting partisan politics over good policy, your party’s legislators unanimously opposed the world’s agreement with Iran to prevent it from acquiring a nuclear weapon.
But don’t worry, Ann. Disgusting anti-Semitic comments like yours will help maintain the traditional bonds between American Jewish voters and their home in the Democratic Party, where they are actually welcome.
Greg Rosenbaum is chairman of the National Jewish Democratic Council.
Petty criminals in Birmingham, a city with a population of 1 million, vandalized a menorah, apparently because Jews are rich. Crude activists will descend upon Golders Green to tear up Israeli flags and burn the Talmud because Jews “oppress the Palestinians.”
The rationale of bigots is difficult to comprehend. Their motives are so thin and sweeping that their accusations cannot stand up to objective analysis.
A group of neo-Nazis, with their faces concealed, were seen in a video spray-painting a Star of David onto the gates of a Birmingham park gates, with the words “bankers” and “1%,” The Jewish Chronicle of London reported. The video then shows them climbing the menorah to hang a Third Reich swastika flag and a placard with the logo for National Action, a neo-Nazi organization.
In Golders Green and vicinity, home to 50,000 British Jews, neo-Nazis intend to “dismember by hand” Israeli flags in the center of town on July 4, a Sabbath day, and do the same in other Jewish communities later in the summer, according to The Chronicle. “Jewish privilege” is only one flaw attributed to Jews there.
White supremacist activist Joshua Bonehill-Paine wrote on his website, June 15, that destroying Israeli flags would be “in solidarity with those oppressed by the illegal state of Israel”:
This will be a show of solidarity by English people who recognise that Israel is a corrupt state which is responsible for horrific war crimes.
Bonehill-Paine also plans a “private ceremony” to burn the Talmud “in recognition of its racist anti-white teachings.”
Interestingly, these latter words correspond to an anti-Semitic message attributed to Dylann Storm Roof, 21, who is accused of murdering the nine black parishioners during Bible study inside a Charleston, S.C. church, June 17. The New York Daily News reported that Roof wrote on a website called “Last Rhodesian,” “How about we protect the White race and stop fighting for the Jews”:
The issue with Jews is not their blood, but their identity. I think that if we could somehow destroy the Jewish identity, then they wouldn’t cause much of a problem… most Jews are always thinking about the fact that they are Jewish.
Bonehill-Paine arguably contradicts himself, since western civilization, which is ostensibly run by the white race, has long been accused of imposing its imperialistic ways on the Third World. So where does the guilt lie for the Jews of Golders Green? Are they a threat to the white race? Or do they collude with the white race of Europe to colonize the lands of the Middle East? It is doubtful that even Bonehill-Paine can explain the discrepancy.
Though the English do not observe any kind of independence day, on July 4, 200 Britons, Jewish and others, declared their independence from neo-Nazis when the one-hour rally was held. Police had ordered the demonstration to relocate from Golders Green to central London where the area is more diverse, The Times of Israel reported.
The Times of Israel also reported that counter-protesters outnumbered the neo-Nazis eight to one that day. The counter protesters shouted slogans such as “Nazis off our streets,” and “We are black, white, Asian and we’re Jews, and there’s many, many more of us than you,” according to a report in the Evening Standard. The central London site was secured by 200 police officers who cordoned off an area for the rally.
Also, 80 people showed up in Golders Green for a pre-planned counter-protest on Friday, July 3, because many needed to observe the Sabbath the next day. The Times of Israel described the event as mostly “good-humored,” but two Jewish women who raised a large Jewish flag offended some, because in England more people distinguish between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
All the same, the English in Golders Green and central London championed the spirit of Independence Day for two days instead of just the one.
It’s okay to disagree with President Obama’s statements or policies. I disagree with some of them too. But too often, we base our opinion on statements or policies falsely attributed to President Obama. That’s why it’s so important to read for ourselves what President Obama actually says, in context, rather than relying on what we are told the president said by people who have an ax to grind (or, for that matter, by people who support the president).
Yesterday, Jeff Goldberg published an interview with President Obama covering the war against ISIL in Iraq and Syria, the nuclear deal with Iran, his relationship with Israel and the Jewish people. If you’re concerned about those issues, read the interview.
Two parts leaped out at me. The first was Goldberg’s statement that “As I listened to Obama speak about Israel, I felt as if I had participated in discussions like this dozens of times, but mainly with rabbis.”
The second was President Obama’s statement that “There’s a direct line between supporting the right of the Jewish people to have a homeland and to feel safe and free of discrimination and persecution, and the right of African Americans to vote and have equal protection under the law. These things are indivisible in my mind.”
When you look at the world that way, how can you not be pro-Israel? No wonder President Obama’s list of pro-Israel accomplishments is so long.
Video Clip of the Week.
This morning, in honor of National Jewish American Heritage Month, President Obama spoke at Adas Israel Congregation in Washington, D.C. If this isn’t pro-Israel, I don’t know what is. If this doesn’t make you feel good, I don’t know what will.
I strongly recommend that you watch it if you have time, but if you don’t, rather than rely on those who will take bits and pieces out of context, at least read the transcript below and decide for yourself what you think of today’s speech.
Remarks by the President on Jewish American Heritage Month
Adas Israel Congregation, Washington, D.C.
I want to thank Rabbi Steinlauf for the very kind introduction. And to all the members of the congregation, thank you so much for such an extraordinary and warm welcome.
I want to thank a couple of outstanding members of Congress who are here. Senator Michael Bennet — where did Michael Bennet go? There he is. And Representative Sandy Levin, who is here. I want to thank our special envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Ira Forman, for his important work. There he is. But as I said, most of all I want to thank the entire congregation of Adas Israel for having me here today.
Earlier this week, I was actually interviewed by one of your members, Jeff Goldberg. And Jeff reminded me that he once called me “the first Jewish President.” Now, since some people still seem to be wondering about my faith — — I should make clear this was an honorary title. But I was flattered.
And as an honorary member of the tribe, not to mention somebody who’s hosted seven White House Seders and been advised by — and been advised by two Jewish chiefs of staff, I can also proudly say that I’m getting a little bit of the hang of the lingo. But I will not use any of the Yiddish-isms that Rahm Emanuel taught me because — I want to be invited back. Let’s just say he had some creative new synonyms for “Shalom.”
Now, I wanted to come here to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month because this congregation, like so many around the country, helps us to tell the American story. And back in 1876, when President Grant helped dedicate Adas Israel, he became the first sitting President in history to attend a synagogue service. And at the time, it was an extraordinarily symbolic gesture — not just for America, but for the world.
And think about the landscape of Jewish history. Tomorrow night, the holiday of Shavuot marks the moment that Moses received the Torah at Mount Sinai, the first link in a chain of tradition that stretches back thousands of years, and a foundation stone for our civilization. Yet for most of those years, Jews were persecuted — not embraced — by those in power. Many of your ancestors came here fleeing that persecution.
The United States could have been merely another destination in that ongoing diaspora. But those who came here found that America was more than just a country. America was an idea. America stood for something. As George Washington wrote to the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island: The United States “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
It’s important for us to acknowledge that too often in our history we fell short of those lofty ideals — in the legal subjugation of African Americans, through slavery and Jim Crow; the treatment of Native Americans. And far too often, American Jews faced the scourge of anti-Semitism here at home. But our founding documents gave us a North Star, our Bill of Rights; our system of government gave us a capacity for change. And where other nations actively and legally might persecute or discriminate against those of different faiths, this nation was called upon to see all of us as equal before the eyes of the law. When other countries treated their own citizens as “wretched refuse,” we lifted up our lamp beside the golden door and welcomed them in. Our country is immeasurably stronger because we did.
From Einstein to Brandeis, from Jonas Salk to Betty Friedan, American Jews have made contributions to this country that have shaped it in every aspect. And as a community, American Jews have helped make our union more perfect. The story of Exodus inspired oppressed people around the world in their own struggles for civil rights. From the founding members of the NAACP to a freedom summer in Mississippi, from women’s rights to gay rights to workers’ rights, Jews took the heart of Biblical edict that we must not oppress a stranger, having been strangers once ourselves.
Earlier this year, when we marked the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma, we remembered the iconic images of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel marching with Dr. King, praying with his feet. To some, it must have seemed strange that a rabbi from Warsaw would take such great risks to stand with a Baptist preacher from Atlanta. But Heschel explained that their cause was one and the same. In his essay, “No Religion is an Island,” he wrote, “We must choose between interfaith and inter-nihilism.” Between a shared hope that says together we can shape a brighter future, or a shared cynicism that says our world is simply beyond repair.
So the heritage we celebrate this month is a testament to the power of hope. Me standing here before you, all of you in this incredible congregation is a testament to the power of hope. It’s a rebuke to cynicism. It’s a rebuke to nihilism. And it inspires us to have faith that our future, like our past, will be shaped by the values that we share. At home, those values compel us to work to keep alive the American Dream of opportunity for all. It means that we care about issues that affect all children, not just our own; that we’re prepared to invest in early childhood education; that we are concerned about making college affordable; that we want to create communities where if you’re willing to work hard, you can get ahead the way so many who fled and arrived on these shores were able to get ahead. Around the world, those values compel us to redouble our efforts to protect our planet and to protect the human rights of all who share this planet.
It’s particularly important to remember now, given the tumult that is taking place in so many corners of the globe, in one of the world’s most dangerous neighborhoods, those shared values compel us to reaffirm that our enduring friendship with the people of Israel and our unbreakable bonds with the state of Israel — that those bonds, that friendship cannot be broken. Those values compel us to say that our commitment to Israel’s security — and my commitment to Israel’s security — is and always will be unshakable.
And I’ve said this before: It would be a moral failing on the part of the U.S. government and the American people, it would be a moral failing on my part if we did not stand up firmly, steadfastly not just on behalf of Israel’s right to exist, but its right to thrive and prosper. Because it would ignore the history that brought the state of Israel about. It would ignore the struggle that’s taken place through millennia to try to affirm the kinds of values that say everybody has a place, everybody has rights, everybody is a child of God.
As many of you know, I’ve visited the houses hit by rocket fire in Sderot. I’ve been to Yad Vashem and made that solemn vow: “Never forget. Never again.” When someone threatens Israel’s citizens or its very right to exist, Israelis necessarily that seriously. And so do I. Today, the military and intelligence cooperation between our two countries is stronger than ever. Our support of the Iron Dome’s rocket system has saved Israeli lives. And I can say that no U.S. President, no administration has done more to ensure that Israel can protect itself than this one.
As part of that commitment, there’s something else that the United States and Israel agrees on: Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon. Now, there’s a debate about how to achieve that — and that’s a healthy debate. I’m not going to use my remaining time to go too deep into policy — although for those of you who are interested — we have a lot of material out there. But I do want everybody to just remember a few key things.
The deal that we already reached with Iran has already halted or rolled back parts of Iran’s nuclear program. Now we’re seeking a comprehensive solution. I will not accept a bad deal. As I pointed out in my most recent article with Jeff Goldberg, this deal will have my name on it, so nobody has a bigger personal stake in making sure that it delivers on its promise. I want a good deal.
I’m interested in a deal that blocks every single one of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon — every single path. A deal that imposes unprecedented inspections on all elements of Iran’s nuclear program, so that they can’t cheat; and if they try to cheat, we will immediately know about it and sanctions snap back on. A deal that endures beyond a decade; that addresses this challenge for the long term. In other words, a deal that makes the world and the region — including Israel — more secure. That’s how I define a good deal.
I can’t stand here today and guarantee an agreement will be reached. We’re hopeful. We’re working hard. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. And I’ve made clear that when it comes to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, all options are and will remain on the table.
Moreover, even if we do get a good deal, there remains the broader issue of Iran’s support for terrorism and regional destabilization, and ugly threats against Israel. And that’s why our strategic partnership with Israel will remain, no matter what happens in the days and years ahead. And that’s why the people of Israel must always know America has its back, and America will always have its back.
Now, that does not mean that there will not be, or should not be, periodic disagreements between our two governments. There will be disagreements on tactics when it comes to how to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and that is entirely appropriate and should be fully aired. Because the stakes are sufficiently high that anything that’s proposed has to be subjected to scrutiny — and I welcome that scrutiny.
But there are also going to be some disagreements rooted in shared history that go beyond tactics, that are rooted in how we might remain true to our shared values. I came to know Israel as a young man through these incredible images of kibbutzim, and Moshe Dayan, and Golda Meir, and Israel overcoming incredible odds in the ’67 war. The notion of pioneers who set out not only to safeguard a nation, but to remake the world. Not only to make the desert bloom, but to allow their values to flourish; to ensure that the best of Judaism would thrive. And those values in many ways came to be my own values. They believed the story of their people gave them a unique perspective among the nations of the world, a unique moral authority and responsibility that comes from having once been a stranger yourself.
And to a young man like me, grappling with his own identity, recognizing the scars of race here in this nation, inspired by the civil rights struggle, the idea that you could be grounded in your history, as Israel was, but not be trapped by it, to be able to repair the world — that idea was liberating. The example of Israel and its values was inspiring.
So when I hear some people say that disagreements over policy belie a general lack of support of Israel, I must object, and I object forcefully. For us to paper over difficult questions, particularly about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about settlement policy, that’s not a true measure of friendship.
Before I came out here, the Rabbi showed me the room that’s been built to promote scholarship and dialogue, and to be able to find how we make our shared values live. And the reason you have that room is because applying those values to our lives is often hard, and it involves difficult choices. That’s why we study. That’s why it’s not just a formula. And that’s what we have to do as nations as well as individuals. We have to grapple and struggle with how do we apply the values that we care about to this very challenging and dangerous world.
And it is precisely because I care so deeply about the state of Israel — it’s precisely because, yes, I have high expectations for Israel the same way I have high expectations for the United States of America — that I feel a responsibility to speak out honestly about what I think will lead to long-term security and to the preservation of a true democracy in the Jewish homeland. And I believe that’s two states for two peoples, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. Just as Israelis built a state in their homeland, Palestinians have a right to be a free people on their land, as well.
Now, I want to emphasize — that’s not easy. The Palestinians are not the easiest of partners. The neighborhood is dangerous. And we cannot expect Israel to take existential risks with their security so that any deal that takes place has to take into account the genuine dangers of terrorism and hostility.
But it is worthwhile for us to keep up the prospect, the possibility of bridging divides and being just, and looking squarely at what’s possible but also necessary in order for Israel to be the type of nation that it was intended to be in its earliest founding.
And that same sense of shared values also compel me to speak out — compel all of us to speak out — against the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it exists. I want to be clear that, to me, all these things are connected. The rights I insist upon and now fight for, for all people here in the United States compels me then to stand up for Israel and look out for the rights of the Jewish people. And the rights of the Jewish people then compel me to think about a Palestinian child in Ramallah that feels trapped without opportunity. That’s what Jewish values teach me. That’s what the Judeo-Christian tradition teaches me. These things are connected.
And in recent years, we’ve seen a deeply disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in parts of the world where it would have seemed unthinkable just a few years or decades ago. This is not some passing fad; these aren’t just isolated phenomenon. And we know from our history they cannot be ignored. Anti-Semitism is, and always will be, a threat to broader human values to which we all must aspire. And when we allow anti-Semitism to take root, then our souls are destroyed, and it will spread.
And that’s why, tonight, for the first time ever, congregations around the world are celebrating a Solidarity Shabbat. It’s a chance for leaders to publicly stand against anti-Semitism and bigotry in all of its forms. And I’m proud to be a part of this movement, and I’m proud that six ambassadors from Europe are joining us today. And their presence here — our presence together — is a reminder that we are not doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Our traditions, our history, can help us chart a better course as long as we are mindful of that history and those traditions, and we are vigilant in speaking out and standing up against what is wrong. It’s not always easy, I think, to speak out against what is wrong, even for good people.
So I want to close with the story of one more of the many rabbis who came to Selma 50 years ago. A few days after David Teitelbaum arrived to join the protests, he and a colleague were thrown in jail. And they spent a Friday night in custody, singing Adon Olam to the tune of “We Shall Overcome.” And that in and of itself is a profound statement of faith and hope. But what’s wonderful is, is that out of respect many of their fellow protesters began wearing what they called “freedom caps” — yarmulkes — as they marched.
And the day after they were released from prison, Rabbi Teitelbaum watched Dr. King lead a prayer meeting before crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. And Dr. King said, “We are like the children of Israel, marching from slavery to freedom.”
That’s what happens when we’re true to our values. It’s not just good for us, but it brings the community together. Tikkun Olam — it brings the community together and it helps repair the world. It bridges differences that once looked unbridgeable. It creates a future for our children that once seemed unattainable. This congregation — Jewish American life is a testimony to the capacity to make our values live. But it requires courage. It requires strength. It requires that we speak the truth not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.
So may we always remember that our shared heritage makes us stronger, that our roots are intertwined. May we always choose faith over nihilism, and courage over despair, and hope over cynicism and fear. As we walk our own leg of a timeless, sacred march, may we always stand together, here at home and around the world.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. Thank you.