Does anyone still care about Jewish values?

As antisemitism has spiked around the world, including in the United States, Holocaust memory has become more important than ever.

Politicians and religious leaders hold a banner reading 'France against racism and antisemitism' as they take part in a silent march through Paris in 2006 following the torture and killing of young Jewish victim Ilan Halimi. (photo credit: REUTERS/REGIS DUVIGNAU)
Politicians and religious leaders hold a banner reading 'France against racism and antisemitism' as they take part in a silent march through Paris in 2006 following the torture and killing of young Jewish victim Ilan Halimi.
Today, the Jewish people are once again facing an upsurge in antisemitism.
Beyond that seemingly eternal struggle, Jews, especially those in the New York area, have at least three other priorities today: repairing and strengthening black-Jewish relations; advancing Holocaust memory, as the world begins to forget; and ensuring the security of Israel, as it is beset on three sides – Hamas to the west, Hezbollah to the north, and Iran to the east – by genocidal adversaries.
At the forthcoming annual gala of the World Values Network at Carnegie Hall on March 3, we will be honoring those people who are playing vital roles in addressing these priorities.
I’VE BEEN especially alarmed at the deterioration of relations with my brothers and sisters in the African-American community.
I have spent decades working to strengthen these ties, from my public conversations and visit to Israel with Al Sharpton, which was cohosted by Shimon Peres, to my collaboration on radio with Peter Noel on America’s most distinguished black radio station, WWRL.
Now it is our organization’s opportunity to recognize the contributions of mega-philanthropist Robert Smith, chairman of Carnegie Hall.
Smith, who heads Vista Capital in Texas, achieved worldwide recognition when, in May 2019, he spontaneously agreed to pay off all student debt of the graduating class of Morehouse College, where he was delivering the commencement. The commitment amounted to tens of millions of dollars and set new standards for educational philanthropy which electrified the world. It was a defining moment in modern education, and Smith will be receiving our highest award celebrating education.
Jews and African-Americans have marched together for civil rights and worked for our shared values and interests since at least the 1960s. Now, extremists, who are not representative of the larger African-American community, are attacking Jews in the streets of New York, and radicals have turned the civil rights movement on its head by attacking the State of Israel in the name of Palestinian rights.
The hijacking of Black Lives Matter has been accompanied by the equally specious intersectionality debates on campus, where Jews are accused of being beneficiaries of “white privilege,” even as we remain the most persecuted minority in the history of the world, and Israel’s government is equated with the disgusting Afrikaner regime in South Africa.
As preposterous as those comparisons are, even more absurd is the suggestion that Jews – who have faced persecution and annihilation for centuries, and who are as much a rainbow coalition as any you will find anywhere in America – are in any way at odds with the black community.
When I took the Rev. Al Sharpton to Israel in 2001, what most surprised him was seeing massive numbers of African-Jewish refugees, from Ethiopia and elsewhere, finding sanctuary in Israel and the constant sight of black Jewish soldiers with M-16s protecting Israeli citizens.
We will honor African-American leaders and activists who share common cause with the Jewish community in our timeless efforts to stamp out racism and bigotry of every stripe, including honoring boxing legend Evander Holyfield, boxing’s only four-time heavyweight champion.
AS ANTISEMITISM has spiked around the world, including in the United States, Holocaust memory has become more important than ever.
The challenge is becoming greater as fewer survivors remain as witnesses to give firsthand testimony to the horrors of their experience. I was honored to be at Auschwitz two weeks ago for the 75th anniversary of the death camp’s liberation on January 27. Making the occasion especially memorable was the gathering of approximately 2,000 survivors from all other the world, and I had the opportunity to speak with, and interview, many of them.
Now, we must increasingly rely on government to ensure that future generations are taught the lessons of the Shoah. It is heartening that more states are making Holocaust education compulsory.
Nowhere is preserving Holocaust memory more important than in Poland, where three million Jews, 90% of the country’s Jewish population prior to the war, were murdered.
For all of the controversy that has sometimes surrounded the actions of the government, Poland has done a tremendous job of ensuring that the sites of persecution and murder are maintained, to ensure the evidence of those crimes is maintained so that future generations will know why we can never be silent when confronted by genocidal threats, such as those emanating from Tehran.
American Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher has been pivotal in the relationship between the United States and Poland and heroic in promoting Holocaust memory. We will be honoring her for her extraordinary leadership and efforts.
THE FIGHT against antisemitism, the importance of black-Jewish ties and Holocaust memory are all reminders of the centrality of Israel in Jewish life.
It would be nice to say that Israel is secure today, but that, sadly, is not the case. In addition to the threats directly from Iran, its tentacles stretch across the Middle East, as it seeks to surround Israel with its proxies.
Hamas, with its genocidal charter against Israel, continues to fire rockets aimed at Israel’s civilian population, and to send incendiary balloons and kites to literally set the land on fire.
Hezbollah, another genocidal enemy, is building terrorist tunnels and amassing hundreds of thousands of rockets on Israel’s northern border.
Fatah continues to educate the next generation of Palestinians to hate their Jewish neighbors and to engage in terrorism.
Israel can defend itself, but the US-Israel relationship is vital to ensuring its security. The United States is the only country that can be counted upon to protect Israel’s interests in negotiations and to have a role in promoting peace. The bipartisan support Israel enjoys has made it possible to obtain billions of dollars in military aid and support for the development of lifesaving weapons systems such as Iron Dome.
Ultimately, however, it is the values Americans and Israelis share that guarantee the special relationship will endure. They are values that were articulated by the greatest American of the 20th century, Martin Luther King Jr., who reimagined the Hebrew Bible as a liberation manifesto and offered its prophets – Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Micah – as trumpets of human liberty and dignity.
The biblical mandate of the Jewish people is to “repair the world under God’s sovereignty.” We do this primarily by influencing the world with our values and recognizing those individuals who have done their utmost to live by, inspire, and promote values-based leadership.
The writer is the author of Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.