While many community activities have slowed or stopped during the pandemic, that hasn’t been the case with the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel (RICI), a local grassroots organization of Jews and Christians who support America’s alliance with Israel and oppose anti-Semitism.
RICI has continued its ongoing program of public education about anti-Semitism.
According to new data from the ADL (Anti-Defamation League), the American Jewish community last year experienced the highest level of anti-Semitism since tracking began in 1979, with more than 2,100 incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the United States. The total number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. in 2019 increased 12% from the previous year, with a 56% increase in assaults, according to the 2019 ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The audit found that there were, on average, as many as six anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. on every day in the calendar year.
“Public education is needed now more than ever,” stated Ken Schneider, RICI’s treasurer. “Anti-Semitism has grown quickly at all levels. There are several reasons: right-wing conspiracy theories blaming Israel and the Jews for COVID-19; radical leftist Jewish public figures, such as Seth Rogen and Peter Beinart, calling the legitimacy of the state of Israel into question; the anti-Semitic anti-Zionism of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement; the mainstreaming of anti-Semitic political figures, such as Ilhan Omar and Al Sharpton, in the Democratic Party; and anti-Semitic statements and actions arising from the Black Lives Matter movement – to name just a few.”
One arm of RICI’s program has sponsored a giant “STOP ANTI-SEMITISM” banner at the iconic Big Blue Bug on interstate 95. Not only did the banner generated community conversation, but the “likes” on RICI’s Facebook page more than tripled since the banner was installed on July 13. Originally slated to come down on July 27, its stay was extended, courtesy of Blue Bug Solutions, until it was taken down before tropical storm Isaias struck.
Furthermore, the Facebook posting of the banner also drew more than 300 comments.
“The banner was a real coup,” said Ed Newman, president of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education and Resource Center, in Providence.
The other arm of RICI’s current program is the dissemination of information about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s “working definition of anti-Semitism.” The working definition is an international standard by which actions and speech may be judged. It states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
In July, RICI also joined an international coalition of 128 nonprofit groups in formally calling on Facebook to implement a comprehensive hate-speech policy that incorporates the full working definition.
At the same time, RICI has been involved in distributing a new study, “The New Anti-Semites.” The study, by StopAntiSemitism.org and the ZAHOR Institute, explains how the extreme right and left are converging, especially in the U.S., and makes the case for widespread adoption of the IHRA’s working definition.
Individuals and community leaders may obtain a copy of the study by contacting RICI at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Submitted by the Rhode Island Coalition for Israel.