Ronald Lauder’s pledge of $25 million to create a campaign against anti-Semitism in American politics is the latest in a series of signs that individuals, organizations and government officials are stepping up efforts to combat a reported rise in anti-Jewish rhetoric and attacks.
Lauder’s announcement follows the establishment, by New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, of a $20 million Foundation to Combat Anti-Semitism. Leveraging the $1 million he was awarded as the recipient of last year’s Genesis Prize in Jerusalem, Kraft said the foundation will specialize in using social media to deliver educational campaigns and “spur action by people of all backgrounds.”
Lauder, a Republican donor and president of the World Jewish Congress, told The New York Times that his Anti-Semitism Accountability Project, or A.S.A.P, would target Democrats and Republicans who deploy anti-Semitic tropes. He said he would seek a dialogue with, among others, Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, two Democrats who have been accused of doing just that. Lauder appeared satisfied that President Trump, despite criticism from the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee and others, neither purveys nor condones anti-Semitism. But he said he would be “going after the right as well as the left.”
Municipalities are also taking action: Nassau and Suffolk counties are forming a coalition to prevent hate crimes and educate young adults, an announcement Monday that followed two hateful incidents at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County in Glen Cove. In September, Deborah Lauter, formerly the Anti-Defamation League’s national civil rights director, was appointed head of New York City’s new Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes. The office coordinates with 10 agencies.
The FBI has also signaled that it considers domestic terrorism carried out under the banner of white nationalism and neo-Nazism a priority — countering, in part, criticism that federal law enforcement focuses too narrowly on threats associated with Muslims.
The danger in such a variety of approaches and decision-makers is that efforts will be duplicated, strong work by legacy organizations dedicated to the fight will be undervalued, and the Jewish community might lose an opportunity to unite in common cause.
But there is also great promise in that anti-Semitism will be attacked from many sides, in the private and public sectors, and by institutions and individuals with a wide range of contacts, experience and spheres of influence. To do this right, the combatants should not weaponize anti-anti-Semitism to punish one side or the other in the political debate and should be willing to call out friends and foes who fail to take hatred and intimidation seriously. They must closely track when criticism of Israel crosses the line into anti-Semitism, and avoid conflating the two when it is not warranted.
Finally, any attempt to fight anti-Semitism must start with the victims. Whether it is the student on a college campus, a rabbi walking the streets of Crown Heights or a writer targeted on social media, their voices must be heard.