To be Jewish is to know adversity – and to thrive in spite of it

Even as Jews have thrived around the globe since the end of the Holocaust, an ominous undercurrent of antisemitism has remained.

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June 13, 2019 16:12
3 minute read.
To be Jewish is to know adversity – and to thrive in spite of it

RONALD S. LAUDER. (photo credit: NOA GRAYEVSKY)

 
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We were slaves in Egypt until Moses led us to freedom. We were persecuted by the Babylonians, the Grecians, the Romans, we were massacred during pogroms – yet we rose out of the ghettos to become leaders, scholars, and artists. We were brought to the brink of extinction by the Nazis, but even the greatest evil was not enough to stop us, and out of the ashes rose a new state for our people, Israel. Through innovation and moxie, multiple generations of Israelis have changed the world.

Even as Jews have thrived around the globe since the end of the Holocaust, an ominous undercurrent of antisemitism has remained. Now that current is a rising tide, one that threatens to plunge us back into the darkness. We’ve seen it in Paris, in Pittsburgh, in dozens of other cities and communities. Once again, Jews are being persecuted for the simple reason that they are Jews.

In the United States, nearly 60 percent of religion-based hate crimes committed in 2018 were against Jews, who make up less than 2.5 percent of the population. It seems unfathomable that 75 years after six million of our people were killed, Jews would be warned it is unsafe to wear a kippah in the streets of Germany. But they have been, as hate crimes against Jews in that country have risen 70 percent over the past year.

Given our understanding of how disparate hatred toward Jews can quickly escalate to concerted violence, one might think the reaction to this threat would be swift and decisive, ensuring the worldwide promise is kept to “never again” allow horrors like those wrought by the Nazis. On the contrary, governments around the world have been slow to grasp the threat, and even slower to respond and counter it.

That has left a vacuum of leadership, one that Jewish organizations around the world must fill. As president of the World Jewish Congress, I will call out and campaign against any world leader who does not condemn this wave of antisemitism and any government that does not take action against it.

Jews everywhere must defend Jews anywhere. Each and every nation around the world must heed this call to action, one that goes far beyond ensuring the fate of our people and extending to the fate of the human race. We have seen the global scale of destruction that can rise out of hatred, and we know that the safety and security of all citizens – citizens of every nationality, race, religion, gender, and sexual orientation – is at stake.

I am deeply proud of my heritage. For me, there has been no greater gift than to be Jewish and to represent world Jewry as head of the World Jewish Congress. I have watched with profound joy over the past decades as Jews in every corner of the world have given everything in their power to aid humanity, making tremendous contributions to science, technology, medicine, agriculture, and security, areas that have improved the lives of billions. We have done so even as many around the world have refused to ensure our basic right to live in safety.

We are a selfless people – but we must not be complacent. Even as we continue to contribute, we must ask more of the world. Today, I am calling on all heads of state, on all business leaders, on the people who run media and social media companies, on ambassadors and artists and those who shape opinion around the world – on all of them – to reject antisemitism, to unite against oppression and bigotry wherever they rear their ugly heads, and to work to prevent crimes of hatred against Jews and all people.

We Jews have always stood tall, even when we’ve been forced to stand alone. But today we must not stand alone. Now, let people of good conscience around the world join us.

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