Friday, August 22, 2014

Israel, antisemitism, what can we do?

Lately I've received voices of concern from congregants and others: we watch what's going on in the world, especially in Israel and Gaza, with increasing antisemitism in Europe and the US, and we ask ourselves: "what can we do?"

Each of us wishes we had a magic wand to make it all go away. Sadly, we don't, but that doesn't mean we must stand idly by. Indeed, as Jews we have an obligation to seek justice for all and root out hate wherever it hides. 

So after giving it a think, here's some suggestions: 

Support Your Local Jewish Community

"How does that help Jews in Ashkelon or Berlin?" you might ask. The answer is: Many local communities have efforts in place to help communities in Israel hit hardest by the war. Many local Federations (including the Jewish Federation of Delaware) are supporting the effort Israel Under Fire (see previous link). The Reform Movement is working on the project "Stop The Sirens". The Jewish National Fund and Hadassah also have efforts to support communities under fire. Finally, investing in Israel Bonds becomes not an act of charity but investment in Israel's future, especially at a time when that future is not just under attack from rockets, but the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanction) movement. Finally, Friends of the Israel Defense Forces is a great way to support Israel boys and girls defending their country, as are programs to write letters to Israeli soldiers. 

Likewise, supporting through local communities also gives those communities the ability to support Israel locally in the media and fight antisemitism on a local level through local programming, such as inviting shlichim (emmisaries from Israel), speakers, youth programs, music and culture, and other ways of getting the word out. 

Stay Informed

Find some good news sources and stick with them. I tend to follow
Haaretz (center-left; Israel's paper of record)
Times of Israel (center-right with many diverse voices)
Jerusalem Post (center-right aimed at English Speakers)
ynet news (the website for Yedioth Achronoth, Israel's daily morning paper)
Tablet Magazine: American/International Jewish News Source

Try to find a diversity of sources--include Slate and The Economist for some different perspectives and voices. 

All of the aforementioned also have Facebook pages and Twitter feeds (as does the IDF and Americans For Peace Now): add them to your own. Likewise, follow Social Media voices that tend to be informative and helpful. I follow Jason Miller, Menachem Creditor, Israel News Now, and a few others (heck, follow me--I try to repost and retweet stuff that is informative and helpful where possible). 

If you want to try to live the experience to gain greater sensitivity, download the Red Alert App (also available for Droid). Designed for Israelis to warn of an incoming Missile Attack--put it on your phone and see how often it goes off. Ask yourself: could you get to the shelter in time? 

Speak Out

Your voice matters. Write letters to the editor. Call your senators and congressional representatives. Write the White House. Write to state government, including Attorneys General offices, local representatives and the governor's office (especially on issues of antisemitism). Post on social media. Speak to your friends. And that goes for everyone: I'm sick at heart over Gaza and its people EVEN AS I fear for Israelis in the south, or Jews in Denmark or Philadelphia. If you have a nuanced view, share it (most Israelis do too). But share your support. Engage in dialogue. And report antisemitism where you see it (The ADL has a way to do so on their main page. Any hate crime, really). Speak out, stand up to it. Remember, silence equals consent, and if we don't encourage our friends and family (and drum up the gumption ourselves) to speak out, rather than ignore or laugh off, then we will see hateful speech turn to hateful action (Great article on this by Deborah Lipstadt). 

Go To Israel

Okay, this might be out of many people's price range, but seriously, if you have the means, go. Rethink that vacation in the Bahamas and plan to go to Israel. This is especially important after so many airlines cancelled their flights this year. Make the plan, and go. It doesn't just support their economy--it shows the world that we are not afraid. 

These are just some ways to get involved and help. Do you have suggestions for others? Feel free to share!

*(There, are, of course, other issues in the world too. If you're concerned that this focuses too much on Israel and not enough on issues like Ferguson, ISIS, Ukraine, Climate Change, Boko Haram, etc. I hear you. Many, many of the suggestions above apply equally well to those issues, especially regarding advocacy. And the Israeli press is often more responsive to the situation in the Ukraine and Syria than the US press. So feel free to adapt these techniques for those issues too!). 

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