Tag Archives: Anti-Semitism

CJP, JCRC Joint Statement on Tree of Life Synagogue Shooting

Community Vigil Scheduled Tomorrow (Sunday, Oct. 28th) on the Boston Common at 2:00pm.

Today, during a Shabbat service of reflection, prayer, and celebration, 11 people were murdered and another six injured by a suspected anti-Semitic, xenophobic extremist at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history.

We are as devastated as we are horrified. We have reached out to the Pittsburgh Jewish community to express our support. We pray that the families of the victims find comfort during this unimaginably painful time and for the full recovery of the wounded. And we offer our gratitude to the brave first responders in Pittsburgh who risked their lives to prevent further bloodshed.

In our close-knit Jewish communal world, many of us have friends and family in Pittsburgh, and know congregants at the Tree of Life Synagogue. These are our brothers and sisters, our friends, our family, and our children.

During this time of great despair and anxiety, CJP and JCRC have been in close contact with local law enforcement, who have been extremely proactive and supportive in their response. We also appreciate the outreach from Governor Baker and the interfaith community, who stand with our Jewish local community and those around the country. There is no indication of any increased threat locally.

Anti-semitism and hatred in its many forms are antithetical to our faith and an affront to humanity. For the victims, we will mourn. For the living, we will continue to fight for a better, more just world.

May the memories of those we lost today be a blessing.

We invite you to join us for a CJP/JCRC/ADL vigil for the victims at the Tree of Life Synagogue. Please join us as we gather on Boston Common at the Parkman Bandstand at 2:00pm

We can no longer say that anti-Semitism is in retreat

“Burton” isn’t a traditional Jewish surname. My grandfather was born Moshe (Milton) Bergstein. He grew up in Harlem in the 1920s along with his younger brother Levi (Louis). Louis aspired to become a sports journalist, but he knew a Jewish-sounding surname wasn’t going to get him on New York radio. So he changed his name, and his older brother – wanting to share a family name – did so with him. Louis Burton went on to have a distinguished career in New York sports journalism.

This history is not unique to my family.

In the 1947 film, Gentleman’s Agreement, Gregory Peck plays New York journalist Philip Green, who is surprised to learn that his secretary changed her name after being rejected for jobs with her Jewish surname. Green goes undercover as a Jew to research anti-Semitism, and discovers discrimination against us in housing, employment, services, and even within his own family. Several Jewish Hollywood producers didn’t want to make this film, fearing repercussions. Actors turned down the lead role. The film was a surprise hit at the box office and received many honors, including the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Jewish “defense” organizations, like JCRC in 1944, were created in this context; to unite our community in standing up to the socially acceptable anti-Semitism of those times. And when, over time, it appeared that anti-Semitism in America was in retreat, our focus shifted to other forms of defense and advocacy.

With expressions of anti-Semitism gaining in frequency (with multiple hate incidents of swastikas in schools last month alone), we can no longer say that anti-Semitism is in retreat. There has been a notable spate of violent attacks on Orthodox – i.e. “visibly” – Jewish people around New York City recently, along with incidents of Jews being harassed for wearing Star of David necklaces and other Jewish identifiers at some progressive marches, or being tossed out of an Uber for speaking Hebrew. Still, we can appreciate that the current experience of anti-Semitism in the US remains substantively different from the experience of many on the receiving end of rising hatreds and bigotries. Most in the Jewish community (ie, those presenting as White and straight) have generally not shared the experience of those in our community and others who were stabbed in the streets for holding hands with a same-sex partner, or had the cops called for sitting while Black in a Starbucks, or got screamed at by a customer for speaking in Spanish.

But here are some of the alarming realities we are facing here in the US: In several races around the country, neo-Nazis – espousing the removal of Jews from public service or even the country – are running for office. Disturbingly, these candidates are polling as high as 5, 10, and even 20 percent. Thankfully, local Republican parties are moving to vigorously denounce and expel these folks. While no one is anticipating – yet – a victory for these politicians, it is becoming acceptable to say: “yes, I know this candidate expresses these anti-Semitic views, but I’m still considering him as an acceptable candidate for public office.”

On the Democratic side, in various races we are seeing candidates openly acknowledge disturbing debates in their political circles about the very legitimacy of a Jewish state. These candidates are firmly asserting: “I support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state.” But, it is becoming acceptable in certain spaces to espouse anti-Semitic notions about Israel (For a cogent articulation of the distinction between legitimate criticism of the policies of the State of Israel and the slippery slope that leads to left-wing anti-Semitism, read this excellent Washington Post op-ed by Rabbi Jill Jacobs of T’ruah).

My point is this: even amidst the recent wave of populism, and with rising expressions of hatred and bigotry of all forms, we – the Jewish community – aren’t (yet) as vulnerable and marginalized as we were in the 1940s. Nonetheless, we are seeing something insidious: the normalization, once again, of anti-Semitic expression in significant parts of our society.

Toward the end of Gentleman’s Agreement, Green’s fiancée describes herself being sickened by an anti-Semitic joke at a party. But she did nothing to challenge it. The lesson in this movie – and in this moment – is that silence condones bigotry.

Our charge today, and the charge of all decent people, is to not be complicit through our silence, and to confront and challenge anti-Semitism – and all forms of hatred – wherever and whenever they appear. We cannot lose sight of the fact that our fate is inextricably bound with that of other marginalized minorities, as one expression of bigotry fuels so many more. We must unite as a Jewish community, in solidarity with our partners, to make it socially intolerable to hold these views. Our failure to do so puts us at risk of becoming an America where, once again, our personal defense may come at the expense of proudly displaying our Jewish identities. That must be unacceptable in our great nation.

Shabbat Shalom.


Today’s Boston Globe Letters to Editor: Disturbed by portrayal in editorial cartoon

Dear Friends,

Today's Boston Globe features a Letter to the Editor, co-signed with ADL New England, expressing that we are disturbed and offended by the anti-Semitic themes in Friday's cartoon. Here is the letter in full:


We were deeply disturbed and offended by Ward Sutton’s editorial cartoon in Friday’s edition of The Boston Globe (“Murder on the tax-cut express,” Opinion).

While the debate over the tax bill in Washington, including the role of political donors and private interests, is important, this cartoon promotes anti-Semitic themes.

The portrayal — singling out, among all the donors and interests who stand to benefit, a prominent Jewish individual, Sheldon Adelson; depicting him with an exaggerated hooked nose; linking him with money; and positioning him as hidden inside the train while others conduct — evokes classic anti-Semitic imagery and reinforces existing stereotypes.

At a time when hatred and bigotry of all forms are seeping into the mainstream, it is critical that the Globe and other responsible media outlets refrain from giving additional aid to those who no doubt will see this cartoon’s publication as further verification of long-established anti-Semitic views.

Robert O. Trestan, Regional director, Anti-Defamation League, New England region

Jeremy Burton, Executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston

I encourage you to read and share the letter, and welcome any comments you post on the Globe website.

Thank you,


This Anti-Semitism. And This Anti-Semitism. And Us.

The next two statements will each annoy, at various levels, some part of the organized Jewish community that is represented within JCRC:

  1. Rising anti-Semitism and its increasing mainstream toleration on the left in the United States and around the world is a serious concern that we need to name and address as a community.
  2. Rising anti-Semitism and its increasing mainstream toleration on the right in the United States and around the world is a serious concern that we need to name and address as a community.

Barely a day goes by that someone within our community isn’t raising one of these concerns to me. I share them both.

Rarely does that same person raise the other concern. More often than not, that person tends to identify themselves with a world-view sitting in partisan opposition to where they articulate the problem coming from. Simply put, we are a community divided; not in our concern about rising anti-Semitism but in our lack of shared understanding about which forms of it are of consequence and concern for us.

And too often, rather than agreeing on the multiple threats facing us and collectively heeding the call to address them, we allow ourselves to be splintered as we argue amongst ourselves about which anti-Semitism is worse.

Like many of us who sit at the center of our communal politics and debates, I tend to come down on the side of Elu, v’Elu, This and This (to poorly re-purpose the rabbis of the Talmud). Cannot both be true? Cannot both forms of rising anti-Semitism be a threat at the same time?

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that we face an existential threat if left-wing denial of our national identity as a Jewish people is normalized.  Or that dismissing the fact of our people’s historical origins in and enduring connection to our homeland is inherently anti-Semitic. And yes, that this ideology and the conclusions it draws threaten the safety and the future of the world’s largest Jewish community.

It ought not to be a partisan nor controversial statement within our Jewish community to say that there is an existential threat if right-wing denial of the equality of individuals and ours as Jews is normalized. Or that the advance of a politics of white supremacy and racial nationalism, of “blood and soil,” that places blame on the international and cosmopolitan Jew, puts at risk everything we’ve achieved through enlightened liberal democracy. And yes, that we’ve seen this before.

We, who strive to reflect the broad center of our community, must commit ourselves to confronting the existential threat from both extremes of the political spectrum. We can and should debate strategies for confronting them, and even weigh the best use of our finite resources in doing so, but we dare not diminish either as a real and significant threat.

The need to bridge our differences and uphold our responsibility for confronting both these threats is all the more urgent precisely because our fractured communal conversation results in our being less effective than we need to be in combating both. My own sense is that the most effective members of our community to confront the left-wing threat would be those who themselves authentically sit within the progressive world. And, conversely, the most effective voices against the right-wing threat are those of us who sit comfortably in conservative spaces. I tend to think that those speaking out against anti-Semitism from across a political aisle aren’t terribly effective speaking to an audience that they don’t particularly respect or understand on other matters. But those who’ve acted courageously in holding their own ideological peers accountable – and often enduring inordinate online abuse as a result – have inspired awe and admiration.

At times like this I think of that Nazi propaganda poster displaying “the Jew as centipede” crawling over the globe. One eye of this caricatured “international Jew” has a dollar sign; the Jew as capitalist. The other eye has a hammer and sickle; the Jew as communist. If the worst of the worst could paint us, in one fell swoop, as a threat from the left and the right, then surely we can name the threat to us today from both the left and the right.

This and this. Both must be fought. And we must all be in this together.

Shabbat Shalom,


‘Mein Kampf’ proceeds ought to go exclusively to Holocaust education

This letter was first published in the Boston Globe.

MAY 18, 2016

IT IS important to keep “Mein Kampf” in print for teaching and learning purposes, and we support Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in doing so (“Keeping ‘Mein Kampf’ in print,” Opinion, May 9); however, we believe that the publisher is making a grave error in diverting funds from Holocaust education to broader educational efforts.

We are deeply troubled by the reality that Holocaust denial is alive and well, even in our Commonwealth, as the Globe reported this month regarding Methuen grammar school principal Mary Beth Donovan. She faced Holocaust denial in her school and took action to educate her students.

While Houghton Mifflin Harcourt may be well-intentioned in broadening its scope, the work of purging the world of Holocaust denial is not complete; it requires the efforts of educational organizations that use the horrors of the Holocaust to teach the dangers of hatred and intolerance. The profits from the sale of “Mein Kampf” must continue to exclusively be used for this work.

Jeremy Burton

Executive director

Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston


Vulnerability Amidst Rising Anti-Semitism

For some time now we have been experiencing increasing numbers of acts of anti-Semitism in the United States. It has shocked us, especially in recent months as reports of new incidents seem to be a near daily occurrence.

We’ve been disturbed here in Boston by multiple acts of anti-Semitic graffiti, including swastikas - at schools in Newton and Georgetown, in towns like Marblehead – and by chants of “you killed Jesus” at a high school basketball game. We hear about recent violent assaults on visibly Jewish individuals in New York. We follow news of a plan last week to commit a violent attack against a synagogue in Aventura, Florida, thankfully disrupted before it occurred. We hugged our children a little bit closer this past week in the wake of bomb threats at Jewish schools in Ann Arbor, Michigan and St. Louis, Missouri. 

The list goes on. And after years of worrying for our brethren in Europe as they deal with a tsunami of violent, murderous hate, we’re starting to question a long held self-confidence that nothing of that sort could happen here.

To be clear, we are not approaching anything like ‘the end’ of American Jewry – the normalization of discrimination against Jews and the impossibility of carrying on our daily lives – in the way that some are speaking of life in Europe. But this is a time of tension, some of it specific to the Jewish community and much of it far broader, whether that be the new coarseness of our discourse that normalizes public expression of hateful language; the politicization of ‘fear of the Other’ that so many in our nation are feeling; or, the all too easy slippage from legitimate criticism of Israel into the casual use of anti-Semitic tropes.

As members of the Jewish community discuss this newly acknowledged vulnerability, folks point out that JCRC and others have been vocal in recent months as we moved to denounce xenophobia in our political discourse, hate-crimes targeting local mosques, and those who deny the Armenian Genocide and caused pain for our neighbors in Boston.

And people are asking us: When we are the targets, why don’t we hear our friends in other faith communities and civil rights organizations calling out these acts of anti-Semitism as such?

Of course many beyond the Jewish community have addressed this wave of anti-Semitism. Cardinal O’Malley spoke out swiftly after that basketball game. Officials in Marblehead were quick to address what happened there. The school committee in Georgetown acted to educate about the Holocaust. Friends have reached out to express concern and support.

But the simple truth is that we are feeling vulnerable. For most of us here in Boston this is a relatively new experience. And so, we are at a bit of a loss as to how to respond to this terribly unsettling phenomenon.

The American Jewish community can be proud of the tremendous infrastructure we’ve built over the last century to stand up for ourselves and fight discrimination; both against us and against others. We’ve invested in strong ‘defense agencies’ including ADL, AJC, and - of course - JCRC.

In the post-Holocaust era we’ve internalized the importance of not counting on others to protect Jews from hateful violence. We’ve gotten skilled at making sure that acts of hate against Jews do not go unnoticed or without a vigorous response.

We’ve become so effective at responding to hate that other communities count on us to be in solidarity with them to lift up and address their own experiences of bias. They turn to us as partners to help shine a light on racism and homophobia and we do so because it is the right and just thing to do.

And perhaps some of them assume as they have for so long that when it comes to anti-Semitism, “we’ve got this.” They see the responses in these towns and in the local media and might possibly think that “our friends in the Jewish community don’t need us to help shine a light on this wave of hate.”

And to an extent, that is true. “We’ve got this.”

But do we really? Because this time it will take more than our usual ways of doing business, mobilizing our agencies to raise the alarm and take care of our needs.

We are – like many of our friends beyond the Jewish community - feeling the experience of something new and ugly in this country; this vulnerability, this sense that anyone who is ‘the Other’ is at risk and that we are, again and always, one of the Others. This feeling that despite all we have achieved, this great American moment where Jews lived largely without the experience of hate is coming to an end.

This is not something we’ve had to deal with in this way for a while. Many of us are afraid and hurting.

As Jews, when it comes to protecting Jewish communities, we’d like to think “we’ve still got this.” But as Americans we need to know that we’re not dealing with this alone as Jews. We are yearning for assurance – from ourselves and others – that no Americans, including us, must face hate and bigotry on our own. In this dark time we all need a little reminding that we are not alone.

Shabbat Shalom,


Joint Statement of AJC Boston and JCRC Concerning Newton Public Schools – April 11, 2016

AJC-logo3_H-tag new jcrc-logo-sq-sm

In recent months there has been increasing concern regarding anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia and other matters that affect safety, civility and respectful relations in the Newton public schools.  In an effort to allow community members to share their concerns and generate constructive discussion, Newton Mayor Setti Warren hosted a community forum on April 7th, which was attended by students, parents and interested community members – including representatives of our agencies. 

There were presentations by high school students, teachers, a civil rights lawyer, the Newton Superintendent of Schools and others.  Concerns were expressed about manifestations of bias and bigotry and how to build healthy community among diverse constituencies within the schools.  It was an effort to initiate a much needed community dialogue and we welcome this effort.

To our dismay, a group of activists – who have been identified in the media as members of the Jewish community - disrupted the proceedings.  An African-American mother was heckled while discussing her own child’s experience of racism.  There were loud contentions that the only concern worthy of discussion was anti-Semitism.  The overall affect was to shift the focus of the meeting from concerns about anti-Semitism, as well as racism and homophobia to the conduct of the meeting itself.

To be clear, anti-Semitism has once again emerged as a virulent global phenomenon.  Members of the Jewish community have legitimate reasons for concern and reasonably wish to encourage vigilance and forthright measures to address anti-Semitic activity in our region. The recent string of anti-Semitic incidents in several Newton schools, for example, requires serious attention. Moreover, it is hardly a secret that pernicious elements exist that are seeking to import anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias into American school curriculums. We share this concern.  However, it does not justify conduct that was manifest at this meeting or the disrespect that was shown to neighbors, who also had difficult experiences of their own to discuss.  These activities do not represent the broader sentiments of the Jewish community.

In a multi-cultural multi-faith society like our own, the struggle against anti-Semitism does not take place in a vacuum.  It is part of a larger struggle to build respectful tolerant communities where citizens not only tell their own story, but are able to listen and have empathy for the struggles of others. 

At the forum we also heard strong moral leadership from within our Jewish community, in the powerful voices of students like Rebecca Wishnie, a senior at Newton North, who said she has seen anti-Semitism in the hallways of the high school, but she has also seen racism and homophobia. “It does not diminish me as a Jew to say anti-Semitism is not the only issue,” she said.

We cannot fight anti-Semitism by showing disrespect to those from whom we also need understanding and support.  Anti-Semitism is far too serious a problem for such ill-conceived activism. We need to build community with others in our common struggle against hate. As Josh Sims Speyer, a Jewish junior at North so eloquently stated: “When we say one type of hate speech is worse than another, we build walls in our community.”

We, therefore, affirm our commitment to respectful discourse and advocacy and encourage all concerned people to transform current challenges into opportunities for building a healthy and respectful community.



Mel                       AS

Mel Shuman, President                      Adam Suttin, Chair
AJC Boston                                                      Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston



leikand           JB

Robert Leikind, Director                 Jeremy Burton, Executive Director
AJC Boston                                                    Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston


JCRC Condemns Anti-Semitic Remarks at High School Sporting Event

Taunting cheers at a high school basketball game took a very dark and troubling turn on Friday night when students from Catholic Memorial High School chanted “You killed Jesus!” at their game against Newton North High School on Friday night.


We join with our colleagues at AJC and ADL in both rejecting hatred and expressing our disdain of such anti-Semitic sentiments and also in our appreciation for the leadership of Newton North and Catholic Memorial High Schools responding with swift and decisive action. We are also grateful to Cardinal Sean O’Malley for sending a clear message to our community that Anti-Semitism in any form is unacceptable.