Fighting Antisemitism Together

by Jessica Kronstadt

Jewish communities are under attack.  Jews have experienced a very heightened level of fear as we watch virulent Antisemitic verbal attacks, online harassment, vandalism, and violence take place in the United States and around the world.  As Jews, we experience a downplaying of our fears far too often.

In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) counted 2,717 Antisemitic incidents that took place across the United States.  That represented a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents recorded in 2020 and was the highest number on record since ADL began tracking Antisemitic incidents in 1979. 

Last month, Kanye West spewed vicious Antisemitism in his social media postings and in several interviews.  Never forget:  the Holocaust started with words.  Antisemitic hate speech has consequences.  Tangible ones: 

  • Jon Minadeo II, founder and creator of the Antisemitic Goyim Defense League, has a long history of Antisemitism.  In the wake of Kanye West’s Antisemitic tirades, Minadeo and his followers hung an Antisemitic banner on the 405 freeway that read “KANYE IS RIGHT ABOUT THE JEWS.”  He and his followers are also responsible for leaving flyers and pamphlets targeting and harassing Jews across the United States, covering cities throughout the country – including Los Angeles – with thousands of flyers vilifying Jewish people.  In 2022, more than 70 harassment campaigns orchestrated by Minadeo and his followers have been reported. 
  • Last Thursday, Brooklyn Nets point guard Kyrie Irving tweeted a link to the film “Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America,” which perpetuates harmful tropes about Jews. On Monday, fans wearing “Fight Antisemitism” shirts sat courtside when Brooklyn faced the Indiana Pacers.  Read the comments from any article about this act of Jewish pride and fighting Antisemitism.  You will come across the following:  “Of course they can afford those seats,” perpetuating a dangerous stereotype that all Jews are wealthy and “say anything true about ‘Jews’ and you’re ‘antisemitic.’”  These are actual comments.  On November 2, Irving apologized, and he and the Nets have committed to working with ADL on combatting hate in all spaces.  That appeared to be a step in the right direction.  But, the next day, when given a clear opportunity to disavow Antisemitism, Irving failed to do so.  He refused to do so.  The Nets suspended him.  ADL stated it would not accept his donation. 
  • Last Saturday, an electronic Antisemitic message appeared at TIAA Bank Field at the end of the sold-out Georgia-Florida NCAA football game. The message “Kanye was right about the Jews” was projected onto TIAA Bank Field’s videoboard, referring to West’s hate speech attacking Jews on social media.
  • On November 1, flyers that read “Satanic Jews control the world – Kanye is right” were placed on campus at Arizona State University. In August, nine student groups at the University of California Berkeley Law School signed a statement pledging not to invite speakers who support Zionism and Israel.  On Yom Kippur, Cornell University hosted a professor who stated that Jews in Israel were running “extermination camps.”  Right now, Jewish students on campus have expressed fear about wearing Stars of David and yarmulkes.[1]


In 2015, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt wrote the following in an insert to the American Jewish Service’s Passover Haggadah:  “While there is much light in today’s world, there remains in our universe disheartening darkness, inhumanity spawned by ignorance and hate….[W]ith vision and action we can join hands with others of like mind, kindling lights along paths leading out of the terrifying darkness.”  We must play a role in addressing and responding to the rise in Antisemitism and Antisemitic hate crimes.  So, how can we do so?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Reach out to your Jewish friends and express your support.  To those who have reached out to express your support and your willingness to combat Antisemitism:  Thank you.  I look forward to standing together in this fight with you.  To WLALA President Janet Hong:  Thank you for asking me to write this article and for featuring it in this month’s newsletter. 
  2. Put your support into writing.  In May 2021 after an alarming number of Antisemitic hate crimes took place in Los Angeles, WLALA released a Statement Condemning Antisemitism.  LinkedIn featured our statement when it highlighted how businesses had successfully responded to Antisemitism.  I invite you to read it. 
  3. Educate yourself about Antisemitism.  Between 2020 and 2021, WLALA, ADL and the American Jewish Committee put together a three-part series on recognizing, standing up to and using the law to fight Antisemitism.  The series is available to you electronically, and I encourage you to watch it.  As an added bonus, you will earn MCLE credit. 
  4. Put what you have said and learned into practice.  Speak up and condemn Antisemitic hate crimes, Antisemitism and Jew-hatred.  Always.  Actively combat Antisemitism and hate by collaborating with and supporting the work of organizations like the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles.
  5. Report Antisemitic-bias or discriminatory incidents to ADL.  Report Antisemitic hate crimes to the Los Angeles Police Department, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department or your local law enforcement agency.
  6. If you are a leader in your office or organization, revise your Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies to include Jews, denounce Antisemitism and add Jewish affinity groups.


Good news:  On November 1, the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed a resolution endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of Antisemitism, the same definition used by the United States State Department and 22 states.  This resolution requires Los Angeles city departments, staff, elected and appointed officials and contract agencies to familiarize themselves with the IHRA definition and incorporate it into their day-to-day operations.   

In a 2018 interview, Justice Ginsburg was asked how her Jewishness affected her work as a lawyer and a Supreme Court Justice.  She responded that it did in the “sense of being an outsider — of being one of the people who had suffered oppression for no … no sensible reason….It makes you more empathetic to other people who are not insiders, who are outsiders….The sense of being a member of a minority group that somehow has survived generations and generations of hatred and plundering.”  ברוך דיין האמת.  Baruch dayan ha’emet.  Blessed is the true justice.  We have seen an outpouring of support for the Jewish community.  The strength of the Jewish community comes from just that – community.  That is where miracles happen.   

Albert Einstein wrote:  “The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake, an almost fanatical love of justice and the desire for personal independence – these are the features of the Jewish tradition which make me thank my stars that I belong to it.”  Never in my life have I been prouder to be Jewish.  I stand ready, willing and able to stand up to and fight against Antisemitism.  I look forward to standing with you.

 

Jessica Kronstadt is a proud Jewish woman.  She is the granddaughter of Holocaust refugees.  She currently serves as a Deputy District Attorney at the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and as Co-Chair of WLALA’s Access to Justice Committee.