(JTA) — In the coming days, the White House is expected to release what President Joe Biden has called “the first-ever U.S. national strategy to counter antisemitism.” It will likely include calls to action by Congress, state and local governments, as well as guidance for technology and other companies, civil society and faith leaders.
In preparation, the Biden administration sought input from a wide range of Jewish community members and stakeholders, including the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which I lead. In addition to this engagement with the forthcoming report on antisemitism, I will travel to Cordoba, Spain, next month for the United Nations antisemitism summit, and then to the European Parliament in Brussels with parliamentarians from across the globe convening against antisemitism.
In both settings, the message of world Jewry remains unchanged: Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, known as IHRA, is an essential and seminal tool to combat anti-Jewish hate
Support for adopting the IHRA definition is significant, as seen in a letter last week from over 175 Jewish community organizations around the world, a letter last week from over 600 rabbis from all four Jewish streams and dozens of letters from American Jewish organizations, all making the important case for adoption of the IHRA definition. Members of Congress have weighed in. Mayors have weighed in. Across the board, a strong and clear consensus of support exists for the definition.
The IHRA definition is the most authoritative and internationally accepted definition of antisemitism. Forty-one nations, as well as hundreds of local governments, academic institutions, NGOs and other entities have formally adopted in different ways the IHRA definition of antisemitism. Over half — 31 — American states also adopted it.
Since the Obama Administration, the U.S. Department of State has utilized and promoted the IHRA definition (and previously, its similarly-phrased predecessor from the European Union’s Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia). Both Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt are leaders in advocating for its usage around the globe. The U.S. Department of Education also employs the IHRA definition as a tool in determining antisemitism discrimination in Title VI discrimination cases.
The IHRA definition continues to gain significant attention and support among governments and civil society actors. Fifty-one of the 53 member organizations of the Conference of Presidents adopted the definition – a clear recognition from every corner of a disparate Jewish community that we are unified when it comes to applauding the comprehensive approach it provides for labeling and addressing antisemitism.
One particular aspect of the IHRA definition that draws attention — and criticism from some groups — is its treatment of the relationship between anti-Israel bias and antisemitism. For too long, definitions of antisemitism failed to account for how anti-Zionism often serves as a cover for antisemitism. Forms of antisemitism that are masked as “anti-Zionism” and that deny the right of the Jewish people to self-determination are among those most frequently encountered by many Jews today, whether or not they are Zionists, as documented in surveys by the Anti-Defamation League and by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights.
The IHRA definition addresses the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, while not conflating legitimate criticism with actual antisemitism. Critics fail to identify actual instances where the IHRA definition suppressed free speech. In fact, over the last 20 weeks, as debates raged around the world over Israel’s proposed judicial reform — with hundreds of thousands of Israelis of all political stripes expressing virulent criticism of the Israeli government’s proposed overhaul — I have yet to hear one individual accuse the critics of being antisemitic. Despite the fact that the IHRA definition is so ubiquitous, legitimate speech that is critical of Israeli government policy is not censored. When put to the test, the IHRA definition does not do what its critics say it does.
We at the Conference of Presidents steadily campaign for states, localities, international governments and organizations to adopt the IHRA definition. The Biden administration seems poised to reassert their ongoing endorsement of the IHRA definition, pushing back yet again against those who distort the nature of the definition’s treatment of legitimate criticism of Israel governmental policies.
In a time when antisemitism in the United States has become all too often lethal, this would mean a vital and praiseworthy evolution of policy.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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