NCJW Antisemitism Position Statement
As an organization with over 180,000 advocates, National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) represents people of many different racial, ethnic, national, and cultural backgrounds. Together, we have been fighting toxic structures of systemic hate for generations. We’ve responded as allies, in coalitions, and through writing legislation to get towards the root cause, most notably helping to write and pass The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and the Violence Against Women Act.
Antisemitism has become more visible and emboldened in the past several years, showing up in spaces where we work nationally and in our local communities. It is critical NCJW also speak out and stand up for our own Jewish community and fight just as hard against this form of hate as we do for other forms. It is important to create safety for our own communities, and because we know that fighting one form of hate is linked to the fight for all forms.
In order to fight against antisemitism, we need a shared definition of what antisemitism is. This page is meant to provide you with NCJW’s definition, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition that we support as an educational tool, and framing and resources to guide NCJW advocates and NCJW sections as you continue your work for a world that is safe and equitable for all.
NCJW Definition of Antisemitism
Antisemitism is a form of oppression that is hostile toward Jewish people. It is systemic oppression that takes many forms, such as, stereotypes and myths about Jews, false conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial, religious intolerance, overt discrimination, physical violence, destruction of Jewish communal spaces and monuments, blaming societal problems on the Jewish people, and holding individual Jewish people accountable for governmental affairs, domestic or foreign.
NCJW affirms that:
- We are a multi-racial, multi-ethnic Jewish community, made up of individuals who have a range of relationships to power, privilege, and oppression. We strive to understand antisemitism in a broader analysis of structural power and white supremacy.
- The ways in which antisemitism manifests and functions today originated in medieval Christian Europe; then, as now, antisemitism in the United States and Europe often functions to uphold existing power dynamics by diverting blame for diseases, economic hardship, and other societal problems away from those in positions of power and instead place it onto the Jewish people.
- The Talmud teaches us that we are all are responsible for one another (Talmud Shavuot 39a). Therefore, we have a responsibility to speak up when we witness anti-Semitism by Jews or non-Jews and to work on the ways in which we have, individually and communally, internalized antisemitic tropes and beliefs.
- Antisemitism must be eradicated in all its forms, be it from the left, right, or center, yet we understand the extreme urgency and threat of antisemitism coming from right-wing white nationalist movements at this moment. While we take seriously antisemitism from all political orientations, antisemitism from the far right in the United States causes more bodily harm and serious damage than other forms in the present moment.
- There is room for challenging conversation and debate around Israel; we hold true that criticism of Israel and anti-Zionism are not inherently antisemitic. We also acknowledge that criticism of Israel is sometimes weaponized as a cover for antisemitic beliefs and actions.
- We recognize that Jewish people are often held to different standards than their non-Jewish counterparts with regards to their relationships to and opinions on Israel, particularly in spaces that do not involve work on Israel. Holding Jews to political standards not otherwise required for non-Jewish people in the same space is deeply misinformed and damaging. We seek to build relationships, coalitions, and communities where Jewish people can fully participate as their authentic selves without fear of backlash due to real or perceived relationships to Israel. We also affirm the importance of building coalitions across lines of difference and know that asking that non-Jewish partners, or even Jewish partners, have the same relationships to Israel as we do can be counterproductive.
- Judaism believes that the commandment to love one’s neighbor includes holding people accountable as a necessary part of relationships of love, care, and connection. We endeavor to try to remain in a relationship with coalition partners who are still learning and growing in their understanding of antisemitism, and commit to supporting their growth and learning where we are able and when it is appropriate. Like all obstacles that come with being in a relationship with other people, situations like this are often messy and unclear. We look to each other for support in determining the best course of action in any given situation.
- Fighting antisemitism is both a critical part of Jewish liberation and of the larger work of creating a world in which all people are free from oppression and hate. The Torah’s assertion that all people are created in the divine image (Genesis 1:27) obligates us to work towards a world that reflects this essential truth.
We remain committed to holding all of these truths together, in all of their complexity.
NCJW Position on International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition
NCJW supports the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition in full as a unified definition across countries and organizations, to be used as an educational tool only. We do not recommend this be codified into law or used to prohibit freedom of speech in any way.
NCJW believes in a world free from antisemitism in all its forms.
We know this work is messy, uncomfortable, and often difficult. It is with this reality that we offer the following resources to help NCJW advocates and NCJW Sections both understand antisemitism and its complex relationship to white supremacy. You’ll also find guidance on how to prepare should the pain and violence of antisemitism ever touch any of your communities.
Here are things you can do proactively:
- Reach out to your local Anti-Defamation League (ADL) chapter, you can find your contact here.
- Build and maintain a relationship with your local Jewish Federation or Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) representatives.
- Know your contacts at your local American Jewish Committee (AJC) might be.
- Watch NCJWebinar: Staying in the Fight for Racial Justice featuring Yavilah McCoy, CEO of Dimensions Educational Consulting, and Eric Ward, Executive Director of the Western States Center.
- Read NCJW’s Open Letter to the Biden Administration and the 117th Congress Priorities for Action Against Antisemitism
- Watch this 90-minute training featuring Cherie Brown the Founder and CEO of the National Coalition Building Institute on responding to antisemitism from coalition partners.
- Read the report from Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Understanding Antisemitism.
- Check out April Rosenblum’s The Past Didn’t Go Anywhere: Making Antisemitism a Part of All Our Movements
- Learn what Jews have at stake in dismantling white supremacy.
- Learn how white supremacy functions in America, and how antisemitism factors in.
- Who decides when we do – and don’t – call out antisemitism?
- On how antisemitism and Jewish privilege are two sides of the same coin and why that’s so thorny
- An interview with Rabbi Danya Ruttenberg on antisemitism and conditional whiteness.