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Friday, August 23, 2019

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (Credit: Robert Isler)

Bergen County Freeholder Tracy Zur, Roberta Abrams, Josh Gottheimer, Jason Shames. (Credit: Robert Isler)

“Jew hatred is Jew hatred.”

Whether it comes as Holocaust denial in textbooks, attacks on synagogue worshippers, the BDS movement, tropes from the far right, the Israeli-hating left or militant Islam, there is no “ranking” hatred. It is all to be condemned.

This is what U.S. Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Anti-Semitism Elan Carr told a recent Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey-sponsored event focusing on the current state of anti-Semitism in the US. Carr was joined by Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ-5) and NJ State Assemblyman Chris Tully (D-38).

Carr noted that the type of hatred sweeping the world is referred to as the new anti-Semitism. However, “I’m here to tell you that there is nothing new about it.” He then rattled off examples. “The Medieval blood libel accusations have been replaced by charges of genocide; the ‘dirty Jew’ is now the ‘dirty Zionist’; and the economic isolation of Jewish businesses by the brown shirts [has] been replaced by the BDS movement, denying the Jew economic intercourse that everyone else enjoys.” He added, “Like the old anti-Semitism, the new anti-Semitism is just as obsessive and compulsive.”

The JFNNJ meeting couldn’t have been scheduled on a more significant day as a House resolution, co-sponsored by Rep. Gottheimer, condemning the BDS movement would pass with overwhelming (398-17) numbers later that day.

Gottheimer, whose district includes the Federation, told the audience of new disconcerting levels of hate being reached in the U.S. Citing Anti-Defamation League numbers, the congressman talked of 1879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018 and how physical assaults had doubled over the previous year.

After providing troubling examples that have taken place in Europe as well, including the finding that “half of young Jewish Europeans have been the victim of at least one anti-Semitic incident in the past year,” Gottheimer emphasized that we must “never accept hatred, bigotry and anti-Semitism in all its forms.” He went on to explain, “That is why I have spoken out so strongly here in my community and, repeatedly, in the halls of Congress, because one-off incidents become trends, which turn into accepted behavior, and if we are not vigilant, turn even more evil and violent.”

Gottheimer closed by pointing out that a “boycott of Israel is not only bad policy but morally wrong.”

Assemblyman Tully of Paramus, who worked as Rep. Gottheimer’s district director, told the group that he was proud to stand with the congressman in support of the anti-BDS resolution.

“The recent rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions is unacceptable and of deep concern to my district. We look out for each other here.”

Carr, a Republican, offered some positive thoughts to the meeting.

“There is real cause for optimism. We have real assets in this fight that are incredibly important to control and roll back the situation.” He provided three cases in point. The first was the current administration. “Pompeo, Trump and Pence are committed to it.” During the Q&A afterwards, he provided a more specific example. At a rally in Illinois, President Trump said something that Carr believes was unprecedented as it relates to the top office. When discussing the hatred of Jews and the history behind it, Trump said, “And for those seeking their destruction, we will seek their destruction.”

The second was that non-Jewish leaders understand “they are in a fight for their lives, and it’s not just about the Jew but the future of our country and communities.” He added, “Every society which imbibes anti-Semitism eventually rots to its core.”

His third reason referenced people like Josh Gottheimer. He explained that with the approach of Tisha B’Av, we have a term, sinat chinam, which is analogous to the current situation in our country, “polarized and fractured.” He went on to say that “leaders like Josh are a gift,” referring to his constant outreach across party lines. Regarding the congressman’s vigilance against anti-Semitism, he added, “There is nobody who is more eloquent, more determined and who leads more effectively on this issue.”

By Robert Isler


Robert Isler is a freelance writer. He can be reached at [email protected]