More than 2,000 people rallying against antisemitism gathered on Capitol Hill on Sunday. It was organized by dozens of Jewish and interfaith organizations spanning a range of political and religious ideologies. In a show of solidarity, Republican Jewish Coalition chairman and former Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) took the podium alongside Jewish Democratic Council of America chairman and former Rep. Ron Klein (D-Fla.), each condemning hatred of Jews from both sides of the aisle.
The catalogue of speakers was impressive, and included Elisha Wiesel, son of Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel; Israeli actress and author Noa Tishby; TV host Meghan McCain; and Deputy Assistant to President Biden, Erika Moritsugu. Victims of horrifying antisemitic attacks — including Pittsburgh’s Rabbi Jeffrey Myers and Boston Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who survived a stabbing attack outside a Jewish day school just two weeks ago — shared personal accounts along with the resolve to fight antisemitism. Their tales were heart-wrenching.
But if you want to read about this landmark event, you will primarily have to turn to Jewish media outlets. With the exception of the Washington Post — which, by the way, reported just “hundreds” in attendance — and a couple smaller outlets in D.C., the story of “No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People” was missing in secular media.
The secular press typically publishes extensively about rallies in support of minority groups under attack. So why was a rally held in solidarity with Jews — staged during a time of a shocking escalation of antisemitic assaults and vandalism in the U.S. and throughout the world — not newsworthy?
When it comes to hate crimes, Jews are the most targeted minority group, according to recent FBI data. Yet, remarkably — and disturbingly — antisemitism remains at best a footnote on the pages of the book of national crises. The sorts of outcries and protests against animosity toward other marginalized groups is absent when it comes to Jews.
The lack of media attention on the “No Fear” rally tragically reinforces its necessity. For some time, we have lamented the fact that secular media does not consistently report on incidents of antisemitism — Jewish tombstones vandalized with swastikas or crushed, students harassed on college campuses simply because they are Jews and the proliferation of antisemitic vulgarities and incitement online. We are perplexed and deeply disturbed that the secular press doesn’t report on each incident of a physical assault of a Jew on the streets of our cities, and largely ignores antisemitic rants from some elected officials.
The media’s disregard of a rally of this scope, in our nation’s capital, when the numbers of antisemitic attacks are surging, is alarming.
The message of the rally was clear: Jewish people must not be afraid to be Jewish. Speakers emphasized the imperative of calling out antisemitism, no matter who espouses it or where the hatemonger falls on the political spectrum. That commitment to zero tolerance is important.
But while the rally was impressive and its message compelling, it was only a first step. We obviously must do more. The repeated call to action from multiple speakers needs to be followed by concrete steps. That includes more comprehensive measures by federal and state government to combat antisemitism, and demanding that the heads of social media empires take definitive action to shut down antisemitism on their platforms.
We must all work together, and with our allies, to discredit and to sanction those who cross the line from legitimate criticism to hate, irrespective of who they are or how they vote. That means that right-leaning Jewish groups must stop disregarding antisemitism when it comes from voices that also support Israel, and that left-leaning Jewish groups must stop excusing antisemitism that is guised as criticism of Israel.
If the secular media is going to ignore this problem, then all of us — individually and together — must take action. PJC