Worried About Anti-Semitism? Practice The Tolerance You Preach.
In The Forward, JFREJ member leader and Women’s March organizer Sophie Ellman-Golan responds the events in Charlottesville through the prism of recent attacks on JFREJ allies Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez. She discusses the left’s responsibility to confront anti-Semitism even as we fight racism, and to have the hard conversations necessary to be a more united movement.
I woke up last Saturday morning to images of Charlottesville — to accounts of the white supremacist chants “blood and soil” and “Jews will not replace us.” I saw pictures of angry white men with swastikas giving the Nazi salute, their faces twisted in rage. As a white Jewish woman, I have for years approached racial justice work from the position of “ally” or “accomplice.” But on that Saturday, it fully dawned on me that they were targeting me too.
I am one of the national organizers of the Women’s March. This work is my life. I joined the fight for Black lives after the murder of Eric Garner, and I’ve stayed in this fight because I believe that when the most marginalized people are safe and free, we will all be safe and free — Jews included.
I also believe that while anti-Semitism is invisibly systemic, in this current moment it is nowhere near as deadly to white Jews as anti-Black racism is to Black people, Islamophobia is to Muslims or the deportation of immigrants is to undocumented people. Because of this, I have always hesitated to push for the inclusion of Jews as a marginalized group in the racial justice movement.
I cannot keep hesitating. Anti-Semitism is real, it is all around us, and it is central to upholding white supremacy. It is for this very reason that Jews need to be central to — but not centered in — the fight to eradicate white supremacy. White Jews and liberal Jewish institutions need to commit to the movement for racial justice and its current priorities, which are centered around destroying anti-Blackness and fighting Islamophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, misogyny, and fascism. And in return, the left must stop ignoring anti-Semitism, let alone actively perpetuating it.