8. What can Jewish groups and individuals do, if a particular Jewish community has a policy of keeping a low profile on Antisemitism?

It can happen that a concerned individual (or group) may be convinced that there is not an appropriate level of response to Antisemitism – a situation which has been previously addressed in Question 7.

  • As alluded to previously, there is usually a lot of activity going on behind the scenes, but there may be significant shortfalls in medium- and long-term perspectives, or in the community's ability to provide wide-ranging responses to Antisemitism.
  • Most such concern is sincere. However, in principle, while zero tolerance is a good policy for bullies, crime, violence, etc., to apply it to Antisemitism requires: broad internal consensus; judicious consideration of the pros and cons; a great deal of commitment and money; professionalism; effective external representation; media relations; and recourse to legal action, where necessary.
  • Not every community can cope with all of this, and it is very tempting for individuals to opt out of community politics, or seek like-minded people in different walks of life, and work within that circle.

Renowned social historians and journalists have the privilege of being able to state harsh truths, and one might say they have been significant guardians of the social conscience, from Emile Zola's J'accuse! through Professor Lipstadt today. However, for most would-be activists the act of going solo will not make a constructive contribution to the strategic policy debate, nor to changing patterns of behaviour within the community

Resist the temptation, or, to paraphrase the Talmud: don't cut yourself off from the community; your two cents may be worth more within the community.

  • The key to most of these situations is to work from where one is located, within the community (or a group). First, identify personal channels of communication and networking within them, in order to take the own member organization itself on board, so that they will advocate action on Antisemitism within community forums.
  • Next, pin-point and assess together the major tools related to combating Antisemitism in the member organization and the Jewish community – most of which will be in the member organization's collective memory - such as: potential human resources for advocacy; professionalization (supply and demand); potential empowerment processes; the quality of external relations work in the community; consistency of response, etc. The organization can thus draft a proposal that addresses policy and action.
  • If one belongs to a faction within the member organization, it is particularly important to create a good team: network to mobilize support for a pro-active policy on Antisemitism within the organization, then develop a concept and export it to the community. 

Know the wider community, how to connect in, and how to utilize its resources:

  • A Jewish community is composed of many member organizations that delegate their leadership to the Federation or Council, but their loyalties and time are devoted primarily to the member organization, whether they as volunteers or professionals.
  • Within any large Jewish community, there are organizations mandated to research and bring data or policy papers to the community for its consideration, in relation to its state of health – assimilation, Antisemitism, financial status, social welfare, and education. Sometimes, their services cover smaller Jewish communities, too.
  • It therefore helps to find out: how they interact with the community; whether their body of knowledge is being drafted into policy recommendations; whether these recommendations are appropriate; and whether they are even being placed on the agenda. This includes agendas in all directions of the hierarchy - horizontally, upwards, and top-down – and across the relevant Jewish organizations, umbrella and leadership forums.

Bringing a specialist speaker to the Federation or Council meeting, on behalf of such-and-such a Jewish organization, is far more constructive and effective as part of a strategy for change, than getting personal with figures in the Jewish leadership, or seeking headlines in the media.

How to make a direct impact:

  • In the era of Media-on-Demand - the open web, the blogosphere, and Youtube - which offer outlets for creativity and connection to like-minded people across the globe, use the available platforms judiciously by all means and learn from them, in addition to the above.
  • When engaging in debate, be well-prepared, rational, moderate, analytical, constructive, and law-abiding.
  • Teamwork wins. Work as a team within and on behalf of your organization, wherever possible; network with other reputable organizations as a team.
  • Interview specialists, public figures and elected representatives on focused issues related to Antisemitism where possible; document evidence of Antisemitism.
  • Submit these and other substantiated information to reputable organizations, so that they will post it on major websites - where policy makers will be sure to find it.




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12 Feb 2007 / 24 Shevat 5767 0