US Jews not threatened by anti-Semitism, Yoffie says
With world Jewry still trying to come to grips with last week’s shooting attack at a Jewish museum in Brussels, the resurgence of far-right nationalism in Europe, and anti-Zionist and anti-Jewish rhetoric in the Arab-Muslim world, American Jews can feel reassured that they are safe from any physical threats motivated by anti-Semitism, the former head of the Reform movement argued.Writing an opinion piece for Time, Rabbi Eric Yoffie emphatically declared that “[a]nti-Semitism is not a threat to the security and well-being of the Jews of America.”
Yoffie claims that while there are worrying trends of escalating anti-Semitism in Europe and the Muslim world, American Jews can take solace in the fact that the United States remains safe and discrimination-free.
The rabbi was writing in response to the results of a recent survey released by the Anti-Defamation League. According to the study, negative attitudes toward Jews are “persistent and pervasive around the world.”
After surveying over 50,000 people in 102 countries in what it termed the “most comprehensive assessment ever of anti-Semitic attitudes globally,” the ADL came to a number of surprising conclusions.
The First International Resources poll determined that 26 percent of respondents are “deeply infected” with anti-Semitic attitudes while only a little more than half of those polled have heard of the Holocaust. Two thirds of those asked stated that they have either not heard of the Nazi genocide or do not believe that accepted historical accounts are correct.
Those who responded positively to six or more questions out of a set of 11 questions based on common Jewish stereotypes were deemed anti-Semitic by the New York-based Jewish advocacy group. The ADL’s National Director Abraham Foxman told reporters at the press conference that they purposely set the bar high.
“We didn’t want to hype. We wanted to understate, rather than overstate, and to be careful that we’re only labeling those people who are really bad,” he said.
Yoffie countered that while he doesn’t doubt that millions of Americans do harbor anti-Semitic sentiments, it is far from being translated into anti-Jewish behavior.
“And by behavioral standards, it is difficult to see anti-Semitism as a factor of any consequence in American life,” Yoffie wrote. “Jews in America are able to live in neighborhoods where they want to live, work in businesses where they want to work, and gain acceptance to any universities that they are qualified to attend.”
“This was not always the case in this country; even in the post-World War II period, discrimination against Jews in all these realms was commonplace. But no more. For half a century, practical prejudice of this sort has essentially disappeared.”
Yoffie wrote that while the Jewish community has witnessed acts of terrorism and vandalism motivated by anti-Semitism, they do not amount to any credible threat since “government officials and political leaders can be counted on to raise their voices in protest and activate the machinery of government to combat the forces of hate.”
“[T]here can be no excuse for seeing our situation as different from what it really is,” Yoffie wrote. “And our reality, as American Jews, is that we are not a community under siege. Let us say it plainly: the anti-Semitism that is festering elsewhere poses no danger to us.”
Maya Shwayder and Sam Sokol contributed to this report.