Impressions of "United Against Hate"
None of us at MJAC were able to attend the July 11 Washington D.C. rally against antisemitism. We were not among the 3000 (or so). Frankly, we think "United Against Antisemitism" would have been a better title. We don't have to explain why.
But let's get some reactions from some machers.
First up is Jonathan S. Tobin:
Along those same lines, some Jews refused to show up at the rally simply because it was an attempt at unity. For them, the partisan tribal culture wars of American politics are more important than a statement against Jew-hatred—so much so that they would prefer to skip it rather than to show up alongside conservative Jews who oppose critical race theory and the Black Lives Matter movement, which have been implicated in the targeting of Israel and the delegitimization of Jews.
It would be nice to draw from Sunday’s event the conclusion that Jewish unity is possible and that opposition to anti-Semitism, no matter its origin, is universal. But that doesn’t appear to be the case.
Opposition to anti-Semitism that doesn’t confront anti-Zionism and its prominent proponents, such as Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), is essentially giving a permission slip to hate groups and violent individuals to target Jews.
Until the fight against anti-Semitism can be said to include the entire Jewish community—meaning that Jews are willing to confront those on the left as well as the right—it’s no good pretending that Jewish unity is possible. So long as a significant percentage of Jews aren’t willing to stand up against such forces in theory, let alone show up at a rally against them, any talk of unity or a community that understands what it’s up against is deeply mistaken.
Next, let's hear from Rabbi Aryeh Spero:
There was no reason to stand in the sun for so many hours or to travel with high hopes born of devotion to the Jewish people, just to hear the tired and misleading charge of white supremacy being the major threat to the future existence of American Jewry. It's not so much about Nazis and Charlottesville, as many of the high-profile speakers would have us believe. Outside the synagogues in Poway and Tree of Life, most actual physical attacks on Jews at restaurants and on urban streets, as well as intimidation of Jewish students on campus, are coming from Arab, Muslim, and left-wing sources. American professors, including many leftist Jewish professors, are leading the charge against and demonizing Israel. None of this evil is a consequence of "systemic racism" or the January 6 mayhem at the Capitol that Rabbi David Saperstein and the Biden rep portrayed as the root of current American anti-Semitism.
Nor do I believe, as posted by the rally organizers, that "anti-Semitism cannot be stopped until we also defeat Islamophobia, transphobia, racism [which today seems to include almost everything], classism, and homophobia." Anti-Semitism pre-dates all these isms and so-called phobias and is a separate category. In fact, there seems to be far more movement in the political left in defeating these phobias at the very same time anti-Semitism is growing within the ranks of the left. Evidently, they are de-linked phenomena.
While we applaud the hard work of those who organized the "No Fear" rally, and while we admire those Jews willing to travel and stand in the hot summer D.C. sun so as to give voice to their sense of peoplehood, and while we admire so many of the young and not so famous speakers who spoke with pride of being Jewish and their unwillingness to hide their Jewishness or capitulate to the marauders, I'm afraid the feel-good "Barney" themes (I love you, you love me) of Sunday's rally will dominate and that the narrative will be exactly as the "progressives" and the ADL wanted — namely, that it is white, conservative, patriotic, "systemic racist" America whose attitudes foment anti-Semitism, and it's those people who must be quelled. Yet the truth is precisely the opposite. A majority of the attacks against individual Jews walking on the streets are coming from minority communities contiguous to Jewish neighborhoods.
Also making her voice heard is Lauri B. Regan:
The road to hell is paved with good intentions – and often large egos. And that is why the No Fear rally in Washington, D.C. on Sunday was such an epic failure. Rather than inspire American Jews to fight antisemitism, it achieved the opposite result making us look weak, apathetic, and anything but united. The key problem: the inexperienced organizers refused to put aside their leftist ideology, work with people who knew how to organize successful rallies, accept advice from those in the know, and take all measures necessary to ensure the rally’s success.
As someone who has organized and spoken at rallies, I enthusiastically reached out to Elisha Wiesel and Melissa Landa to offer my assistance and expertise but their misplaced self-confidence led to a failed rally as they refused outside help. According to most reports including the Washington Post and those in attendance, there were “hundreds” who turned out – an embarrassment for their six to eight weeks of work.
I offered to assist in obtaining high quality speakers and suggested many including Mark Levin, Lindsay Graham, Ted Cruz, Ron DeSantis, and Brian Mast all of whom they rejected as being too “extreme” notwithstanding their unwavering support for all things Israel and the Jewish people.
Ouch! But if you're going to pick only one article to read in its entirety, I'd make it Regan's. She has the deepest insight into the rally and its organizers.
Of course J-Street, IfNotNow, and other "progressive" organizations weren't interested. They're more interested in enabling antisemitism than fighting it. But the mainstream Jewish organizations really need to pull their collective head out of their collective tuches, and start calling out all antisemitism, even if they have to condemn the Democrats' Hamas Caucus.
The ADL's Jonathan Greenblatt wants us to believe that he has finally noticed left-wing antisemitism, but Ruthie Blum isn't buying it, and neither should we.
Lest one was tempted by Greenblatt’s words to give him credit for doing his job, however, he made sure to let his leanings come out in the conclusion.
“It has been heartening to see that some prominent progressive voices have spoken out against anti-Semitism or apologized for using overheated rhetoric,” he wrote. Judging by the hyperlink under the sentence, he was referring to movie star Mark Ruffalo, who tweetedremorse for having suggested that Israel committed genocide in Gaza. How touching.
Greenblatt also gave a nod to members of Congress (i.e., Democrat Brad Schneider of Illinois) “who have made their problems with their colleagues’ statements crystal clear.”
Interesting that he’s impressed with a Jew for bemoaning the blatant anti-Semitism of his fellow Democrat representatives. Pathetic that neither Greenblatt nor Schneider holds the party to which they belong accountable.
Finally, we leave Melissa Landa with the final word, even though Lauri B. Regan trashed Landa's efforts.
In the days following the rally, I have received numerous emails and other messages from attendees who have shared with me how impactful the experience was for them. Lissa Kenkel wrote, “It meant so much to me to show my children that it’s OK to be proud to be Jewish and to speak up for themselves and others. It was a hot day, but it was an empowering and wonderful day.” Leah Jacobson wrote, “The rally gave me hope.”
Others have written to ask when the next “No Fear” event will take place. In the words of Boston resident Michelle Herman, “I think it was a great start and people are starting to wake up. It’s sparked so many around the country.”
As the head of a grassroots organization, I am encouraged. I have great faith in what individuals can achieve when they come together with a common purpose and a shared goal, as our rally indicated. More importantly, it will, perhaps, continue to help unite segments of our fractured and demoralized community that are confronting antisemitic violence, vandalism, and vitriol and that are still searching for hope.
Yes, we must remain hopeful, but we will need more than the occasional rally if we're going to truly fight antisemitism.