Tag Archives: antisemitism

Kanye, Tree of Life, and the Mapping Project

Yesterday we marked four years since the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. On that day seared into the memory of every member of our community, eleven Jews were taken from us by a white supremacist who espoused the antisemitic ‘great replacement’ theory; holding the Jewish people to be the nefarious force secretly siphoning white power by supporting non-European immigration to our country.  

This anniversary comes as antisemitism is very much still in the public discourse in recent weeks. This week I spoke with Yvonne Abraham at the Boston Globe about Kanye’s blatant antisemitism and the consequences he is now experiencing (including, belatedly, from Adidas, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the ADL, AJC, and many others).  

We discussed the inherent Catch-22 that occurs when antisemites are held accountable for their words and actions. I told her that “we end up losing, even when there are consequences… Antisemitism is so rooted in a conspiracy theory about Jewish influence and nefariousness that [punishing Ye] validates the antisemitism.” Which is of course not to say that there ought not be consequences, but rather that we need to understand the deep complexity that comes with fighting a conspiracy theory. It becomes, as my friend Yair Rosenberg at The Atlantic has described it, “a self-sustaining circle.”  

It is not lost on me that Kanye has been espousing hateful rhetoric for a long time about many communities, without the consequences of recent days. And that lack of accountability in the past, for him and for those who cynically platformed and amplified him in service to their own white nationalist ends (looking at you, Tucker Carlson), further feeds and validates the antisemitism of those who then say that he was only punished, finally, for going after Jews.  

As my friend Amy Spitalnick - an ally and partner of JCRC through her work leading the fight to hold the Charlottesville organizers accountable, and more recently in her clear and insightful condemnation of the so-called Mapping Project - told Yvonne:  

“Of course Kanye should be held to account. [But unless we hold to account the officials and institutions that] have mainstreamed antisemitism and white supremacy, we are only allowing it to fester and grow.” 

Speaking of clarity in condemnation, allow me to acknowledge and appreciate several Massachusetts leaders who spoke out unequivocally against antisemitism in recent days, including former Governor Deval Patrick and congressional delegation members Ayanna Pressley, Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton.   

And since I mentioned the Mapping Project, let us name the connection between Tree of Life, Mapping, and Kanye. There is an ongoing – and possibly unresolvable - discussion within our community about the relative threat to American Jews that comes from increasingly mainstreamed right-wing antisemitism (wrapped in a larger white nationalist movement) and left-wing antisemitism (given cover by excessive critics of Israeli policies). There is, as well, what is called a ‘horseshoe’ dynamic – in which the far ends of the ideological spectrum come to common cause.  

The Tree of Life attack was fueled by a conspiracy theory of hidden Jewish power. That’s the same conspiracy theory - although it is repackaged as the key to taking down a network of ‘powerful Zionists’ - that underscores the Mapping Project. They share the concept that whatever ‘my’ experience of oppression or loss of power is, it is the Jews who are secretly behind it. The same conspiracy theory fueled the hostage taker in Colleyville, who believed that if he attacked Jews and got America’s ‘chief rabbi’ on the phone, he could free a convicted terrorist.  

And the far right certainly takes advantage of this horseshoe. This summer, we saw the Goyim Defense League using the Mapping Project in a seminar to demonstrate “the domination of these Jews, and how infested they are all over”.  Those are the same folks that hung those “Kanye was right” signs on freeways in LA last week.  

And so, in this week when we remember the Tree of Life shooting, we also must name how these moments are all connected.  We need to collectively fight antisemitism in all its forms, in all its expressions, both rhetorical and violent, and without partisan benefit or agenda. And we need to see that the fight against conspiracy theories is predicated upon how those White supremacist conspiracy theories threaten all marginalized communities as well. We are all in this boat together.   

And, we must remember those taken from us four years ago this week and commit ourselves to not be deterred; we will continue to gather joyously and live vibrant Jewish lives in community with each other, as a tribute to their memory. May the memories of Joyce Fienberg, Richard Gottfried, Rose Mallinger, Jerry Rabinowitz, Cecil Rosenthal, David Rosenthal, Bernice Simon, Sylvan Simon, Daniel Stein, Melvin Wax and Irving Younger be for a blessing. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Burton

#TheTimesWeLiveIn

Yesterday I retweeted this tweet from Dr. Sara Yael Hirschhorn:  

“Lord am I overjoyed to check my phone after Yom Kippur and find no terrible news of an antisemitic incident at a synagogue! #thetimeswelivein”  

I echoed her sentiment and agreed that this was indeed an awful thought to have. Unfortunately, we had spoken too soon, and there came the reports of a German synagogue’s window being shattered during Yom Kippur services. 

These are indeed the times we live in, disturbing and frightening times where it seems like every other day there’s another swastika sighting, age-old antisemitic tropes resurface, or another Jew is attacked on the streets of New York.  

This antisemitism is multi-layered and multi-directional. It comes from the right and from the left, and it is a present and real threat. Our response must therefore also be multi-layered and multi-directional, addressing the root causes and each facet concurrently.  

We at JCRC and our partners have been hard at work on this multi-layered approach. We successfully advocated for a law mandating Genocide Education in our schools and secured $1.5 million for the genocide education trust fund to ensure that the lessons of the Holocaust will be taught to future generations. And as religious institutions and those of our neighbors are threatened, JCRC successfully advocated to secure three million dollars in nonprofit security grants for vulnerable religious institutions. 

Our newest initiative, and the next layer, is grassroots, and leverages our successful advocacy campaign to directly educate the next generation. We are thrilled to be launching Student to Student (STS), a classroom-based experiential program that engages Jewish teens who are trained to demystify Judaism by giving presentations in high schools that have no Jewish presence. These young people authentically share their Jewish identities with their non-Jewish peers, many of whom have never met or interacted with someone from the Jewish community.  

"Can Jewish people celebrate birthdays? What about Thanksgiving?" "Do Jews still do animal sacrifices like in the Bible?" "Can you only go to Jewish colleges?" "What are your feelings about Israel? "Do stereotypes about Jews bother you?" 

These are just a few of the many questions that have been asked during the presentations, which take the form of informal conversations, confronting stereotypes and misinformation. Participants speak openly about their experiences as Jewish teens. They share stories about their lives and bring props to enhance their presentations. When discussing Shabbat, instead of just describing challah, they pass around the Sabbath bread for the students to sample. The non-Jewish students come away with a new understanding of Jewish religious and cultural practices and connect to the presenters on a personal level.  

The program was created 30 years ago by the St. Louis Jewish Community Relations Council, which five years ago began helping other communities launch their own STS programs. Of the non-Jewish students surveyed in D.C.’s Student to Student program during the 2018-2019 school year, 84% reported they had been motivated to share what they learned or take another step to learn more about Judaism and the Jewish people, and 61% shared what they learned with others. 83% of the teachers strongly agreed that the presentations broke down stereotypes, and 78% strongly agreed that the presentations helped counter antisemitism.  

“Student to Student gave me a platform to bring more awareness and understanding about my religion to other students. Without this program, other students would only have a surface level understanding of Judaism which could perpetuate misinformation and negative stereotypes.” 

– Nicole, Jewish Student Presenter 

Your child or a teen in your life can join us for the 2022-2023 school year to help break down stereotypes and foster increased understanding in our community! Nominations and applications are Open for this Year! 

For more information, please contact JCRC Director of Education Initiatives and Special Projects, Emily Reichman. 

We are committed to meeting these challenges together as a community, to working together with our partners, and investing in future generations. 

Shabbat Shalom, 

Jeremy

“The Good Jews”

With the fast of Tisha B’Av (9th day of Av) – a day for mourning the destruction of the two temples in Jerusalem - this Sunday, I find myself contemplating troubling trends within our Jewish community. Specifically, the growing toxicity of our communal discourse and our inclination to blame each other for the actions of those outside the Jewish community who mean to do us harm.  

It would be fair to say that this behavior of blame has been going on for centuries. Something we often describe when preparing civic leaders to visit Yad Vashem is how, after the Holocaust, there were those at opposite ideological polls of the Jewish discourse who blamed other Jews for causing the Shoah.  

And though this is not new, it is on my mind of late because I see this behavior increasingly showing up in my inbox. After a white supremacist attacks a Jewish institution, I get notes from some who say that “if only” certain other Jews (not them, of course) did certain things differently, these attacks would not happen. And again, after the Mapping Project and its public clarification of a particular form of left antisemitism, the notes and calls arrived - telling me that if only we Jews did certain things differently, maybe these antisemites wouldn’t come at us.  

I couldn’t help noticing that these “it’s the Jews who are to blame” notes in recent weeks didn’t, themselves, map onto a neat left/right narrative. It wasn’t only members of our community with one ideological stance that were blaming other Jews for these troubles. It was diverse members of our community, who each see themselves as “the good Jews” (and maybe even the ‘only’ good Jews), and who see the rest of us as part of the cause of our own troubles. 

Again, this is not new. It comes very naturally to a people that has been oppressed for, quite literally, thousands of years. We ask ourselves why anti-Jewishness is so persistent. And at times it is too easy to offer the incorrect answer that comes with internalizing our oppression: We blame ourselves. We blame other Jews. We blame our institutions and our leaders. We tell ourselves that our troubles are caused by what we do and believe, rather than because of who they (our oppressors) are and what they believe.  

Now please, don’t mistake me as suggesting that we should table our internal disputes, or that we should not engage in critique of each other and our institutions. But it is one thing to debate and argue, lovingly, for different ideas of what it means to live as Jews, and for different aspirational visions for our future as one people. It is quite another thing to openly tear down other members of our community and to question their very legitimacy as Jews. It is one thing to express constructive critique of leaders and to debate and weigh strategies for confronting antisemitism. It is quite another thing when Jews, in claiming the mantle of serving the Jewish people, evoke the same language used by the antisemites, saying that (other) Jews are a ‘threat’ to our community, one that must be dismantled or removed. 

I say all this with the caution that I do not wish to be seen as pointing a finger of j’accuse at one faction or ideology in our community. I offer this perspective rather to explain that from the seat I am privileged to sit in, I see this toxic self-blame showing up in all sorts of ways in our community.  

As we head into Tisha B’Av I am reminded that the rabbis of the Talmud taught that a cause of the destruction of the Temple was the baseless hatred sown between Jews. While this teaching may be familiar to many in our community, maybe now is a good time to tell ourselves that our tendency to blame ourselves, and other Jews, for rising antisemitism is, in fact, misplaced. And still, also, let’s use this fast to forgive ourselves and those among us who – in sowing fear in troubling times like these – also seek to turn us against each other and against our own community. Their tendency to live in fear, and to blame other members of our community, is a natural outcome of the centuries of trauma that they and we carry with us.  

With hope for a future in which we overcome our trauma and heal each other, 

Shabbat Shalom (and wishing an easy fast to those who will be doing so on Sunday),  

Jeremy

By the Rivers of Babylon

Tonight, as we start Shabbat, we also arrive at the 17th of Tammuz on the Jewish calendar. This fast day (observed on Sunday) commemorates when, after a prolonged siege, Roman legions breached the walls of Jerusalem in 70 CE. This date begins the “three weeks,” a period of collective Jewish mourning leading to the 9th day of Av. Tisha B’Av commemorates five calamities - among them the destruction of our first Temple in Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the destruction of the second Temple following a pitched battle through the streets of the city for three weeks after the breach of the walls in 70 CE, and the crushing of the “Bar Kokhba revolt” against the Romans in 135 CE.  

There are many access points from which to reflect on this history; Jews in every time and place have lifted up the particulars of this period that are meaningful to their own moment. For many, it is meaningful to focus on the Talmudic teaching that the second Temple was destroyed because of baseless hatred between the Jews (or by some interpretations, between Jewish leaders) of that time. We may take inspiration from the psalmist, mourning the first Temple “by the rivers of Babylon” and find meaning in those earliest efforts to adapt Jewish identity to a diasporic experience that refused to forget Jerusalem and that yearned for a homeland.  

Over time, this period in our calendar has been connected to the memory of numerous calamities – those that happened precisely on 9 Av, or those that happened more generally in high summer, which has been a historically bad time of year.

The first Crusade began with the slaughter of 10,000 Jews in France in that Av, August 1096.  The Jews were expelled from Spain in the first week of Av, at the end of July 1492. The first World War, and the horror and disruption that built toward the Shoah, began on 9 Av, in August 1914. 

Today we live in what is, by any measure, a trying time. There is so much hatred and division. There is a genuine and persistent threat to our societal institutions. The very stability of our society that we have long accepted, maybe naively, is no longer a given. More particularly, there are genuine challenges to the unity of the Jewish people and to our shared sense of collective purpose. Our safety is threatened around the world. Our ability to engage with civility in our disagreements with each other is sorely tested. 

After reviewing the long list of calamities that we mark at this time of year, I am sitting with the remarkable continued vitality of our people through the millennia. Any community that has endured what the Jewish people have, time and again, for over 2,000 years, should – logically – no longer exist. And yet we do.  

We exist and we thrive because of people like Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai, a “hero” of Tisha B’Av. He perceived the coming crisis and he chose to negotiate with the Romans. He could not save the Jewish commonwealth, but he secured the town of Yavne and established a community of study there where, surrounded by students and with the generations that would follow him, he re-imagined and re-invigorated Judaism for a post-Temple world. His vision, willingness to negotiate with the enemy, and ability to adapt, set the groundwork for what we now know as “rabbinic Judaism.” 

There’ve been other heroes throughout the ages, those who challenged our oppressors, those who negotiated with our enemies, and those who guided our people to rise from the ashes. What they have had in common is their belief in the resiliency of our people; a resiliency that comes from understanding history, from not being afraid to hold an analytical eye to current affairs, and from opening their imaginations to the knowledge that the “worst” outcome is always a possibility. But also, a resiliency that comes from knowing that we’ve survived and thrived, and that through our ability to prepare, resist, and adapt, we continue to see a future of hope, including – as for the weeping psalmist by the rivers of Babylon - our hope and faith in our return to Jerusalem.  

Shabbat Shalom, 

Jeremy

Community Response to BDS Supported Mapping Project

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Under the guise of an interactive map, the innocuously named “Mapping Project” is promoting a list of Jewish communal organizations in Massachusetts that it contends are “responsible for colonization of Palestine or other harms such as policing, US Imperialism and displacement”. Virtually every Jewish organization in the Commonwealth, along with its leadership, is listed in this map along with the relationships of each to civic, governmental, university and other community organizations. Whether those relationships were cultivated by the Jewish institution or the community organization, the underlying messages are clear: Jews are responsible for the ills of our community and if you maintain your relationship with Jewish organizations, you will share that responsibility.

It is a list with names and organizations to be shunned, isolated and disenfranchised. And it draws on age-old antisemitic tropes that are all too clear to our community: Jewish wealth, control and conspiracies.

But we will not be intimidated and we will not be silent.

As a Jewish community, and one that has made allyship and outreach the cornerstones of our work, we condemn this demonization of the Boston Jewish community and attack on its relationship with others. This is no thinly veiled attempt to target the Jewish community – it is an explicit one that is keeping lists and naming names.

At a time when antisemitism, including antisemitic attacks on the legitimacy of the Jewish State of Israel intensify, we in Boston will stand together and continue our work building bridges, supporting our allies and each other, and confronting antisemitism where we see it and when we experience it – as we do today. And we ask you to join us in helping our friends and community leaders and organizations recognize the antisemitism embedded in this hate-filled effort and ask them to join us in calling this out.

We have just marked the 20 year anniversary of the dedication of the Zakim Bridge – a visual reminder of the bridge-building led by Lenny Zakim. At this moment, let us take inspiration from his words as we join together:

We have the power to change things. It doesn’t take much to start a revolution of thought and spirit. It takes one person and then another. When it works, it’s a work of art.

The Last Living Link

This is a week of remembrance. It started on Sunday with the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. As I write this on Thursday morning, we mark Yom Ha’Shoah v’laGevurah (Holocaust and Heroism Remembrance Day). Established by Israel’s Knesset in 1951, it is a time for us to gather and remember the six million Jews who were killed in the Shoah (and is differentiated from International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January which honors, as well, all of the victims of the Nazis). 

Also this week, the ADL released its annual audit of antisemitic incidents. We sadly confirmed what we’ve been experiencing recently – a 48% increase in antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts in 2021, a rate even higher than the 34% rise nationally.   

However, we did receive some good news this week as well.  JCRC successfully advocated for an addition of $500,000 toward the Genocide Education Trust Fund, included in the MA House budget that was finalized on Wednesday. The Trust, a public-private partnership, supports the implementation of the Genocide Education mandate that we worked hard to enact in close partnership with ADL New England, the Armenian community, and others. While the budget continues through the legislative process, we are grateful to Speaker Mariano, House Ways and Means Chair Aaron Michlewitz, and to Representative Jeff Roy for their continued leadership in championing this cause. We look forward to the Senate taking this up in their budget in May, where we have two great champions for genocide education, Senate President Karen Spilka and Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues.  

This coming Sunday at 2:00pm we will gather for the virtual community-wide commemoration of Yom HaShoah, hosted by JCRC.  We’ll be hearing from survivor Frieda Grayzel, Dachau liberator Colonel Cranston “Chan” Rogers and others, including Mayor Michelle Wu, who will be delivering her first Yom HaShoah remarks as mayor.  

Earlier on Sunday, at 10:00am, I’ll be joining Boston 3G and the Israeli-American Council for #6MillionSteps, a walk from the State House to the New England Holocaust Memorial to form a “last living link” around the memorial, to recognize that we are coming to the end of the era in which the survivors of the Holocaust continue to live amongst us.  

I was reminded, again, of the personal connection of JCRC to this work – confronting Nazis and fighting antisemitism – on Tuesday. We invited Father Charles Gallagher S.J., associate professor of history at Boston College, to sit down with me for a public conversation about his book, Nazis of Copley Square. Professor Gallagher’s research documents the Nazi spy ring in Boston in late 30’s and early 40’s and analyzes the role of the Catholic church and local leaders in this ‘Christian Front.’  

I was aware from the book’s footnotes that Professor Gallagher had relied, among other sources, on JCRC’s historical archives. Even so, I caught my breath when Professor Gallagher shared onscreen a memo written by my predecessor, Robert E. Segal, the founding director of JCRC, discussing the beating of Jewish boys in the streets of Boston and the antisemitism that led to JCRC’s foundation in 1944 (on the right below). 

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Eighty years later, as we again experience rising antisemitism in our region, and as the generation of those who experienced the Holocaust is diminishing in numbers, our origin and our purpose remain a central part of who we are and what we do. We at JCRC embrace the need to both challenge and encourage our neighbors to be upstanders in this work, as we also strive to be partners with them in the work of combating all hatred and bigotry. 

I hope you’ll join us on Sunday, in-person and online, and in the year ahead as we continue to do this work with both our members and our partners. 

Thank you and Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy

p.s. This month is National Poetry Month, and today is also ‘Poem in Your Pocket Day.’ Our Greater Boston Jewish Coalition for Literacy volunteers are celebrating this week by inviting local poets to share their writing with students at our partner schools.  

Most of you already know my passion for poetry and my daily reading practice (and if you don’t, follow me on Instagram). This week I’m reading the new translation of ‘Flights and Metamorphosis’ by Nobel Literature Prize winner Nelly Sachs. Her work after the Shoah was deeply informed by her experience fleeing the Nazis.  I encourage you to check it out.  

 

 

Working Together to Confront Antisemitism

Before I discuss some local events this past week, allow me to express that – like so many of you – my heart and my mind are very much with Ukraine as I write this. Our Jewish community in Boston has deep connections there; I’ve been privileged to visit our sister Jewish community in Dnipro three times, including twice on solidarity missions after the Russian invasion of Crimea. Our partners at CJP continue to be engaged and supportive, making emergency grants in recent weeks. You can learn more about their work and the partnership here

Here in the Boston area, these have been disturbing and frightening days of a different sort. Last week we learned that the perpetrator of the 2019 arson attacks against Chabad centers in Arlington and Needham, and a Jewish owned business in Chelsea, was an actual Nazi from Quincy. The other night we watched as some 20 people, carrying a Nazi flag, disrupted a book reading in Providence. And, it seems like every other day there’s another swastika found at Curry College in Milton.  

All of this has me thinking about JCRC’s founding in the early 1940’s, as another wave of antisemitism was ripping through Boston. Our Jewish community came together to create this Council to provide a coordinated response for engaging with government, local media, and the faith community (particularly, then, the Catholic church). The JCRC was, quite literally, established to deal with an organized Nazi effort in our city (as documented most recently in Nazis of Copley Square by Professor Charles R. Gallagher, S.J. of Boston College). 

Some eighty years later, it can feel like we’ve come full circle, with a present and real threat from home grown Nazis in our region. 

Of course, there are things that are different about the challenges we face in confronting antisemitism here in Boston in 2022. For example, we must openly address – as I did a few weeks ago when we worked with CJP and ADL to convene the community after Colleyville – that not all violent attacks on our community are coming from white supremacists and neo-Nazis; as we saw in Brighton last summer, where the attacker was an Egyptian Muslim.  And not all challenges are violent, such as the effort last fall by some on the left to tarnish now-Mayor Michelle Wu by claiming she was being influenced by “sinister” “Zionist” donors. 

This multi-layered and multi-directional antisemitism is how I found myself talking to the Boston Globe twice this week. On Sunday, I talked to Linda K. Wertheimer about how some on the left, as we’ve seen in California, are obsessed with inserting a “Liberated Ethnic Studies” agenda into classroom curriculums. This agenda singles out Israel for excessive condemnation, and denies the Jewish historical experience as being one of an oppressed minority in Western Civilization 

Then, on Thursday, I spoke with Yvonne Abraham about white supremacy and these violent Nazi attacks on our community here in Boston, how we got here, and why we at JCRC take it personally.  

Of course, there are other ways in which the current crisis is different for us, here in Boston, than the one eighty years ago. Most particularly and obviously, we have allies – in government, local media, and the faith community.  

Allies like U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins, who as Suffolk DA pursued the Brighton case as a hate crime and promised to hold people accountable for antisemitic attacks; and then, this last week, arrested - in Stockholm, Sweden - the brother of the Quincy Nazi for his role in covering up what she characterized as an act of domestic terrorism.  

Allies like Governor Baker, Lt. Governor Polito, and Secretary of the Commonwealth Galvin, who, last Friday, issued a proclamation formally endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as “a clear, comprehensive, and non-legally binding definition.” JCRC has, for many years, supported and encouraged the use of this definition and we welcomed this leadership here in Massachusetts.  

Allies you’ve seen if you’ve been to any of our community gatherings in recent years – most recently in December when we gathered to “Shine a Light on Antisemitism”. You’ve experienced the powerful support and allyship of leaders in the faith community and amongst other elected officials.  

There’s a lot of work we need to do. The challenges are immense. But nearly eighty years later, we at JCRC remain committed to meeting the challenge as a community, to working together with these allies, and to forging others, as, together, we pursue a path forward. 

I hope you will be part of this work with us. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy 

Taking a Stand Against Holocaust Distortion

On Thursday we commemorated International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the global day set by the United Nations marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp on January 27, 1945. 

I had the privilege a few years ago to visit Auschwitz. As anyone who has been there would tell you, the scale of the place is overwhelming. Despite everything I know and have learned about the Holocaust, I was completely unprepared for the size of this place. The sorting ramp – a railroad platform - where arriving Jews were separated and condemned to death or forced labor (or, horrifically, violent human experimentation) seems endless. As one walks from there on the path to the death machine, one only begins to absorb the scale of this space where 100,000 people were being kept at any given moment in slave conditions as they awaited the gas chambers.  

100,000. 

That’s a scale equivalent to the population of the city of Cambridge, where I live.  

I’ve been thinking about that experience a lot this week, as several disheartening events unfolded directly related to Holocaust memory and education: 

  • Last weekend Robert F. Kennedy Jr. said the opponents of COVID vaccinations in the U.S. had it worse than Anne Frank: "Even in Hitler Germany (sic), you could, you could cross the Alps into Switzerland. You could hide in an attic, like Anne Frank did.” Recall that this teenager was killed by the Nazis at the Bergen-Belsen death camp, because she was a Jew. (He has since apologized, after being publicly condemned by his own wife, but we should note that this comes as part of a history of offensive Holocaust analogies.)  
  • On the eve of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Tucker Carlson devoted an entire Fox News show to promoting and perpetuating the white supremacist “great replacement” conspiracy theory – which centers Jews in a conspiracy to destroy Western, i.e. Christian and white, civilization. That’s the same conspiracy theory that was referenced by those “Jews will not replace us” chants in Charlottesville in 2017. ADL rightly called it out.
  • And, in Tennessee, the McMinn County school board unanimously removed from their curriculum Maus, the Pulitzer Prize winning graphic novel depicting the experience of the author’s father, a Holocaust survivor. As one board member said “It shows people hanging, it shows them killing kids.” As if the only way to teach history is to ignore or deny the bad parts 

Still, in the midst of all of this, there is cause for hope. With leadership from Germany and Israel, the United Nations overwhelmingly adopted a resolution taking a stand against Holocaust denial and distortion (Though there was one unsurprising holdout - the Iranian regime).  

And locally, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts returned a stolen painting to the family of a Hungarian survivor, in what their attorney described as “a model restitution process.” 

I can’t stop thinking about the scene yesterday in the Bundestag, Germany’s parliament, where the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Mickey Levy, said the Kaddish – the Jewish prayer to honor our dead. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s also a reminder of the potential of a people to face a terrible wrong in partnership with their victims, honestly, and forthrightly.  

And, I remind myself that, for the first time, we in Massachusetts marked this week’s anniversary with a new state law in place that we at JCRC were proud to advocate for, along with key partners, mandating Holocaust and Genocide education in our schools.  

Three years ago, after visiting Auschwitz, my primary observation in that moment was: one cannot ever fully understand the scale of the Shoah, the death camps, and complete devastation, but still, we must make the effort to do so. One cannot begin to truly comprehend Auschwitz without walking in this place, but we must make the effort to do so.  

Not everyone is blessed with the opportunity for that tactile experience, but we are all still able – even if only for a finite number of years– to bear witness first-hand to the memories of the survivors, and to become stewards and transmitters of those memories to future generations.  

Progress is indeed possible. But it takes work. A lot of work. Especially in these times when there are those who choose to minimize, distort, or deny.  

We’ll stay at it. And I hope that you will too. 

Shabbat shalom,

Jeremy Burton

JCRC Executive Director

Joint ADL/JCRC Statement regarding Genocide Education Bill

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ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston (JCRC) are pleased to support S2557, An Act concerning genocide education, as reported by the Senate Committee on Ways and Means this afternoon. We are grateful to Chair Rodrigues and his team for their leadership on this strong bill that achieves key objectives in providing schools across the Commonwealth with access to resources to implement genocide education programs. Through lessons about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other instances of genocide, such programs will serve to ensure that students learn to recognize and fight hate in their communities.

Genocide education is key to combating hate by helping students understand how seemingly benign stereotypes and prejudice can turn into atrocity. Over the last several years, we have seen a significant rise in hateful incidents in our communities, paired with a dangerous downturn in knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides. We appreciate the support of the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in moving this legislation forward early in session and hope to see it make its way to Governor Baker’s desk as swiftly as possible.

Incident in Brighton, and Community Gathering tomorrow

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Dear Friends,

We are writing with upsetting news.

As many of you are aware, Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was attacked and stabbed on the street outside the Shaloh House in Brighton this afternoon.

Rabbi Noginski has been taken to the hospital and is undergoing treatment. Police have arrested the suspected attacker. The motive remains unclear, and an investigation is ongoing. We are working closely with Boston Police to get answers and ensure that our community is protected.

CJP’s Director of Communal Security has visited the site of the incident and the hospital, and we are in contact with the local police and law enforcement. We have spoken with Rabbi Noginski’s family, as well as with Rabbi Rodkin, the leader of Shaloh House, who appreciates all the support he is already receiving from the community.

As a community, an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us. If one of us feels vulnerable, we all are vulnerable. We will not be silent, and we will be there together. In this spirit, we are planning a community gathering for tomorrow at 10:00 a.m. on the Brighton Common, 30 Chestnut Hill Avenue, to come together and show our support for the rabbi, his family, and community. More details soon, and we will update information here as it becomes available. Please join us.

With prayers for Rabbi Noginski’s full and speedy recovery,

Rabbi Marc Baker, Combined Jewish Philanthropies
Jeremy Burton, Jewish Community Relations Council
Robert Trestan, Anti-Defamation League