End of Year Antisemitism Review

As we head into 2018, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on and recognize  JFREJ’s collective efforts to begin addressing antisemitism in 2017. If you want to to join us in wrestling with this complex and important topic, sign-up here to receive updates and learn about opportunities to get involved in our work against antisemitism.

This November, JFREJ released Understanding Antisemitism, a 44-page guide designed to help organizations and individuals in progressive organizations and movements contend with the rise of white nationalism in the Trump era.

JFREJ's efforts to explain and combat antisemitism come at a moment of deep contemplative struggle, as all those who are targeted or marginalized by this administration and its white nationalists backers search for a clear path out of the darkness and more clarity about how we got here in the first place.

And in the midst of this confusion and rancor we need to work effectively with new partners and communities on the left who may have limited exposure to Jews, while also navigating and responding to a wave of white supremacist hate speech and White House dog-whistles that target Jews.

As a community, we need to stand up and unapologetically fight for ourselves, with steadfast allies by our side, while at the same learning to make grounded, sensible assessments of the threats we face and the safety we actually possess. Solidifying our understanding of antisemitism — what it is and how it operates — will be key not only to our safety as a people, but also to our unity and our ability to form generous, mutually respectful relationships with our partners and neighbors.

Here are just some of the highlights of our work in 2017:

  • In August, in the wake of Charlottesville and with only 24 hours notice, we brought together 100 members and leaders of our community for an online discussion with JFREJ Executive Director Audrey Sasson,  former JFREJ Executive Director Dove Kent and JFREJ board member Dania Rajendra. Entitled Conversation on Anti-Semitism, White Supremacy, & Confronting the Far Right, the space created an opportunity for us to be in community and to begin processing, collectively, the stakes of this moment — and you can watch a recording here.  That same week, and in response to calls from our movement partners nationally, JFREJers took to the streets, rooted in our tradition. Organized by Yehudah Webster, Julia Carmel Salazar and JFREJ’s JOC caucus, over 60 people showed up to rally outside a white supremacist’s apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It was one way that JFREJ Jews of Color responded and reacted to the horrific events in Virginia.

  • November was a big month for JFREJ’s antisemitism work! We released our new resource,Understanding Antisemitism: An Offering To Our Movement, the culmination of over a year of research and writing. As of mid-January, 2018, the paper had been viewed online over 29,000 times.

  • We followed this up with a webinar about the key findings of the paper, hosted by Audrey Sasson, Leo Ferguson, and Dove Kent, with special guests Rama Issa-Ibrahim, Executive Director of the Arab-American Association of New York, and Lisa Anderson, Vice President of Embodied Justice Leadership and Auburn Theological Seminary. The webinar had 255 participants and video of the online event can be viewed here.

  • In addition, Leo Ferguson participated in a panel discussion on false charges of antisemitism at the New School, hosted by Jewish Voice For Peace and Jacobin Magazine.Video clips can be found here.

Finally, JFREJ members, staff, and board all contributed to the public discussion of antisemitism in a series of powerful op-eds.

  • In The Forward, JFREJ member leader and Women’s March organizer Sophie Ellman-Golanresponds 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.

  • JFREJ member Jonah S. Boyarin published a powerful essay in Jewschool in the wake of the Charlottesville attack.

  • JFREJ member Jonah S. Boyarin and JFREJ Board member Dania Rajendra explain the impact of antisemitism on the left’s work toward social justice in Everyday Feminism.

  • JFREJ Staff Organizer and co-author of Understanding Antisemitism, Leo Ferguson writes about Linda Sarsour and the impact of false or inflated charges of antisemitism on the Jewish community in The Forward.

We are proud of our commitment to the Jewish community in this political moment and our ongoing, evolving work to integrate an intersectional analysis of antisemitism into the fight against white supremacy and the white nationalist political right.

There is a way forward for our beautiful Jewish community — one that trades fear for clarity, rigidity for resolve, and isolation for solidarity. A path that that we choose not because it is safe, but because it leads to freedom. A path we can follow on even the darkest night because the way forward has been marked by those who have come before us; a trail crowded with friends making the same journey.

Thank you for taking the first steps with us on this journey, and stay tuned for what’s next.