By Sharon Wisch-Ray
In the wake of the conflict between Israel and Hamas that began May 9, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas convened the leadership of Jewish communal partners May 20.
Among those present for the meeting were board chairs and the professional leadership of ADL Texoma, AIPAC, AJC Dallas, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, Rabbinic Association of Greater Dallas (RAGD), rabbis representing the Orthodox community, and Federation and JCRC leadership. The organizations shared their respective priorities as it related to the current round of conflict between Israel and Hamas.
JCRC Board Chair Cindy Moskowitz described “intense listening” as participants shared their insights and how their organizations were handling the conflict. With antisemitism rising across the country as well as in North Texas, organizations are on alert.
“In this the circle of collective wisdom on how to — from a community relations perspective — handle an incident or a situation we were hearing from everyone and it was very emotional,” Moskowitz said. She said that the JCRC and partner organizations are here for Jewish community members as they navigate this challenging time. The group will convene in the future to continue the discussion.
For many in the Jewish community, the antisemitism being voiced is a new experience.
“We are seeing a rise in online and real world incidents of antisemitism in wake of the recent conflict. The vast majority is online harassment, but we have had some incidents of physical threats to individuals,” said Cheryl Drazin, vice president of the ADL Central Division.
Drazin said that her office has received reports of antisemitic rhetoric toward children as young as middle school age. High schoolers and college students are also reaching out for support.
She said that the May 20 meeting was collaborative and that everyone was in agreement that support and resources for teens and young adults who have been attacked because of their identity is crucial.
“In a culture that relies on characters in Twitter or reducing ideas to memes, there’s too much nuance and too much context here to have a one size fits all response,” Drazin said.
Teens and young adults, for example, may experience antisemitism on gaming platforms and this would require a different response from someone who was ousted from a group because they are Jewish.
“We need to educate young people that in order to be an advocate and use their voice, they can, if they’re in the right forum, be a response. But they can also report online hate. The social media and online gaming companies rely on reporting systems.”
Joel Schwitzer, regional director of AJC, was appreciative of being able to hear from the various organizations, learn from them and work together.
“It is so important, on issues that touch us all, that we are able to come together and hear what is going on with the other organizations — hear where the synergies might be — where we can work together and amplify one another’s messaging.” He added that it was important to not only to look at what is happening right now but to look to the future and “how we respond to things as as a community.”
Drazin articulated what she said has become a hallmark of the Dallas Jewish community: its ability to collaborate.
“The beauty of the group coming together last week, was that it covered the spectrum of organizations and the willingness to work collectively to support the community, and to support the commitment that Israel has the right to exist and defend ourselves,” Drazin said.
Individually, each organization is working within its space to deal with the rise in antisemitism and anti-Zionism brought on by the conflict. For example:
• ADL continues to monitor incidents of antisemitism locally and provide resources to those confronting antisemitism.
• AIPAC initiated an email and phone call campaign to specific members of Congress to thank them for affirming Israel’s right to defend itself.
• AJC continues to build on the relationships it has forged through its Muslim Jewish Advisory Council, Community of Conscience and Civic Leadership Coalition. AJC launched Where is the Outrage social media campaign to combat antisemitic rhetoric.
• JCRC, along with AJC, has been advocating for the passage in Texas of a law that will create a state Advisory Commission on Antisemitism Holocaust and Genocide. The commission would publish a biannual report of antisemitism in Texas, and it would be using the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. The Texas Senate was set to vote on their version HB3257 on Wednesday. The House passed HB3257 unanimously, 147-0.
•Following the ceasefire, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum issued a statement, reiterating the value of all human beings, supporting the right of Israel to defend itself and acknowledging its belief that most Israelis and Palestinians long for peace.
“Valuing the lives of everyone living in the region and working to promote a lasting peace must be our focus,” said the statement signed by the museum’s CEO Mary Pat Higgins and board chair Mark Zilbermann.
• The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas has monitored the situation in Israel closely and has sent out several email updates to the Jewish community. In addition, it has made Jewish Federations of North America virtual briefings and a virtual solidarity meeting available.
• The first weekend of the conflict, right before Shavuot began, the Federation was in communication with all local rabbis to suggest that each one do a special Shavuot service in their respective congregations.
• The Federation augmented AIPAC’s initiative to contact Texas Members of Congress to thank then for their support of Israel and her right to defend herself. Through its JCRC, the Federation maintains strong relationships with our Members of Congress from North Texas to ensure support for Israel.
• In a video address to the community Monday, Federation board chair A.J. Rosmarin expressed his concern about the rise in antisemitism in the past two weeks.
“The subsequent barrage of sentiments directed at Jews throughout the world is troubling. The propaganda war against Israel has taken on a clear and disturbing escalation in antisemitism in the U.S. and around the world, physical attacks and hate crimes, fueled by the media have taken place as well as vicious vitriol on and offline. Israel’s international reputation has been hammered. As the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas, we stand resilient, inspired and unwavering in our support for Israel and Jews everywhere, as the conscience of the world,” Rosmarin said.
Cyber-Safety Action Guide:
Translate Hate launch page
(Helps identify Hate Speech)
State of Antisemitism in America Report