Are We Alone? - May 28, 2021

On Wednesday, following a year of presentations on the history of discrimination in the State of Oregon, we held a community-wide Summit on Confronting Hate. Our committee, organizational partners, and sponsors helped create a program that attracted 1,000 participants from across the non-Jewish and Jewish communities. I am so proud of our Jewish Federation team for making this happen, led by Rachel Nelson and Bob Horenstein.
Next week we will make available a link with all 17 presentations on topics including: anti-Semitism in America, Latinos confronting oppressive systems, evolving threat of white nationalism, racism in Oregon towards indigenous people, stopping Asian hate, anti-trans backlash, Islamophobia, and the rise of online hate. For now, watch Eric Ward, Executive Director of the Western States Center, give his excellent keynote presentation on “Combating Hate: The Intersection of Racism and Anti-Semitism in the Fight for an Inclusive Democracy.” It is worth your time.
Who would have known that the timing of this summit, planned months ago, would coincide with a concerning and sharp increase in anti-Semitic attacks both here in the United States and around the world? Jewish individuals attacked. Synagogues defaced. Greater security concerns. Much of this came to the fore during and following the recent conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), wrote, “It should not even need to be said that there is ample space in public life for legitimate forms of criticism of the Jewish state as is the case with any other country. But you cross the line when you demonize Israelis and Zionism; delegitimize the Jewish state and its very existence; and hold Israel to double standards in comparison to other countries. This happens far too often, particularly in recent weeks as many people in positions of authority made exaggerated claims, levelled unhinged charges and spread conspiracies about Israel.”
Yesterday, The New York Times reported, “Until the latest surge, anti-Semitic violence in recent years was largely considered a right-wing phenomenon, driven by a white supremacist movement emboldened by rhetoric from former President Donald J. Trump, who often trafficked in stereotypes. Many of the most recent incidents, by contrast, have come from perpetrators expressing support for the Palestinian cause and criticism of Israel’s right-wing government.”
What I hear from people the most is this feeling of isolation. Are Jews alone in confronting this? Where are our allies at this time? We are not sensing the outcry against anti-Semitism from other communities while the Jewish community has immediately been outspoken against other hateful attacks. To add to it, the silence on the internet and on social media is deafening.
Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe wrote, “Media, political, and corporate voices that have been so passionate and voluble in castigating systemic racism, anti-Asian brutality, and the mistreatment of Black and brown communities have had little or nothing to say as the snakes of Jew-hatred slither out from under anti-Israel boulders. Why? Are they unwilling to say anything that might call attention to the truth that hatred of Israel is all too often indistinguishable from hatred of Jews?”
We are grateful for the supportive public statements of President Biden and other congressional leaders. Yet, what is our takeaway for those who have remained silent? We call on all government officials, community activists, faith leaders, business executives, social media influencers, public figures and Americans across the spectrum to speak out against anti-SemitismAs U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated this week: “We know this from history…it’s almost inevitable that when you see anti-Semitism erupt and emerge, hatred directed at other groups almost is sure to follow.” 
"It does not matter who you are --
when you blame, scapegoat, target and attack Jews or Jewish institutions to air your grievances, that is not protesting.
That is not activism. That is anti-Semitism."
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL
I want to conclude with an uplifting story, one of great pride for the Jewish people. Thirty years ago this week, more than 14,300 Ethiopian Jews were airlifted on 35 aircrafts from Addis Ababa (Ethiopia’s capital) to Israel in less than 36 hours. The Government of Israel, along with our overseas partners the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) and American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) led in the planning and execution of Operation Solomon. I cannot even imagine the planning required for documentation, logistics on the ground in Ethiopia, and the quickly assembled housing in Israel for their arrival. What is less widely known is that at the last-minute American Jews (including through our Jewish Federation) raised $35 million to cover the (ransom) payment demanded by the Ethiopian government to allow the Jews to leave the country.
You must understand that in 1991 Ethiopia was still embroiled in a decades-long civil war and was facing a famine. Rebel forces were advancing toward Addis Ababa -- and the Jews there -- causing grave concern among Israeli and American-Jewish agencies on the ground in Ethiopia. Diplomats negotiated a deal with the Ethiopian government and covert operations were arranged to enable an evacuation at a moment’s notice.
After President George H.W. Bush sent a letter to the new Ethiopian President, Tesfaye Gebre Kidan, an agreement was reached on May 23, 1991, allowing Jews to leave Ethiopia all at once. Operation Solomon started the next day and only a few days later, Addis Ababa fell to the rebels.
As mentioned, 35 aircraft were involved in Operation Solomon. One of those planes holds the Guinness world record for the most passengers on an aircraft. All the seats had been removed, and at least 1,088 people were on board, including two babies born in-flight (six other babies were born on other planes).
Watch this special video on Operation Solomon here. The airlift was an incredible effort that brought great Jewish pride, joy, and awe at the accomplishment.
Shabbat shalom, stand up against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, and have a safe and meaningful Memorial Day as we honor those who died while serving in the military.
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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