By Daniel Staffenberg, CEO, Jewish Federation of Richmond
It’s impossible to ignore that Antisemitism is on the rise.
Millions of Jews in the United States and around the world are confronted with various forms of hate and vitriol at growing rates, including here in Virginia. Celebrities, politicians, and leaders spanning the entire spectrum are spewing long held anti- Jewish tropes and hate.
Antisemitism today looks far too similar and at the same time different than in generations past, but its impacts as painful as ever. Our Federation understands that this a moment that requires a proactive and strategic response.
This moment requires a change, this moment is different.
The lightning-fast way hatred spreads on social media, the reemergence of white supremacy, the continued isolation of Jews on campuses, anti-Zionism, anti-Judaism and the emerging antisemitism in minority communities. This general threat to the democratic systems of the nation requires that we, as a Federation, and as a collective community, respond with clarity and purpose. It is what our community needs and expects from us as a Federation.
HOW WE ARE RESPONDING: Outshine Hate, our comprehensive response.
The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, led by our Jewish Community Relations Committee and alongside partners locally and nationally, have a unique role to play.
We are the only organization with the dual capacity to fight AGAINST antisemitism while simultaneously fighting FOR a strong, vibrant and inclusive Jewish tomorrow.
JCFR is committed to preventing antisemitism, anti-Judaism, and anti-Israel hatred by educating, strengthening, and uniting the Greater Richmond community through our Outshine Hate initiative.
Our approach with Outshine Hate is proactive
Together with local and national partner agencies, interfaith partners, and elected officials, Federation has and will continue to address the need in the Richmond Jewish community in identifying and confronting antisemitism, anti-Jewish, and anti-Israel bias using a comprehensive multidisciplinary approach. As Federation looks ahead to engaging key audiences like educators and the next generation, we are organizing and executing new programming and training based on six core areas of focus:
1) Enhance and strengthen our Communal Security – Through our Community Security Initiative we continue to strengthen the physical and strategic security of our local community through training, security grants and awareness. We have also launched a new Incident Reporting feature on our website which instantly connects to our national security infrastructure.
2) Generating dialogue, encounter, and action with our non-Jewish partners – We will build upon relationships with the Christian, Muslim and Black communities around issues of mutual interest, and those related to fighting hate in all forms.
3) Sustaining and building connections to Israel – We will secure a community Shaliach (emissary) to provide a variety of educational opportunities for the Jewish and general community to connect with and visit Israel.
We recognize that Israel education provides a positive connection with one’s Jewish heritage, culture, religion and history. It builds a sense of collective Jewish responsibility and enduring relationships between learners and the land, state, and people of Israel.
We will strengthen participation in our Partnership2Gether programs building lasting, meaningful, and full relationships between Israel and RVA through programming and regular missions and visits.
4) Advocacy- The Federation will work with partners locally, regionally, and nationally to advocate and support policies and legislation which combats racism and antisemitism and supports Israel and counters delegitimization in the context of two states for two peoples.
We will advocate for:
- the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism. Jewish Federations embrace the IHRA working definition of antisemitism.
- Strengthening Holocaust and Genocide Education
- Combating BDS while recognizing that delegitimization is different than reasonable criticism of policy.
5) Israel and Global Jewry: Culture, Travel and Engagement –
Grow Partnership 2Gether programming – Our Partnership2Gether (P2G) program with Hadera Eiron Israel has been a leading opportunity for promotion, empowerment and development of deep connections between Richmonders and Israelis.
The network, including our 11 Southeast community partners, strengthens Jewish communities in Israel & overseas by creating ongoing & meaningful engagement between members of these communities, based on mutual endeavor & shared Jewish identity.
- L2G -Leadership2Gether – A unique leadership program partnering Israel and Richmond young leaders for learning, text study and meaningful conversation
- Tikkun Olam Teen Experience – The premier Teen Israel Exchange allows teens to live and breathe Israel while making lasting connections.
- Mission Visits to Hadera – We will build meaningful and lasting relationships with the people of Hadera, making Israel personal and explore the complexities of the region.
- We will relaunch our successful Inter-faith Missions
Outshine Hate will be our comprehensive community-wide effort to ensure that we deliver, support and amplify relevant programming, action and initiatives that combat the scourge of Antisemitism and Hate. We will engage key audiences in both the Jewish and general community including Young Adults, Educators, Elected Officials, Public School representatives and Jewish and General Community Members.
Everyone in the Jewish community has a right to feel safe, and we want to ensure that we have the resources and support readily available to empower people to be proud of their Jewish identities.
To get involved in our efforts contact the Federation, opportunities abound to shine a light on Antisemitism.