January 2020 -- Tevet-Shevat 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 1

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Community Unites in Solidarity Against Anti-Semitism

By Stephen E. Lipken


An estimated 800 citizens from White Plains and surrounding communities poured into Temple Israel Center, White Plains on Wednesday, January 8th, attending the seminar “Anti-Semitism: What We Face and How We Fight It,” presented by UJA-Federation of New York and Westchester Jewish Council (WJC).


Featured speakers were Hindy Poupko, Deputy Chief Planning Officer, UJA-Federation; Westchester County District Attorney Anthony A. Scarpino, Jr. and Mark Weitzman, Director of Government Affairs, Simon Wiesenthal Center.


“Today’s program brings the community together to learn more about how we can combat anti-Semitism,” according to UJA Westchester Regional Director Audrey Stein.  “On Sunday, January 5th we were all part of the ‘No Fear No Hate,’ mobilization of 25,000 people  to stand up against recent acts of anti-Semitism in New York.


“We met in Foley Square, then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge to Cadman Plaza.  We are giving $4 million dollars over the next two years to help 2,000 organizations with security.”


Scarpino referred to the weekend vandalism in Yorktown in which houses of worship and a menorah were desecrated.  He pointed to the Westchester Intelligence Center which has mapped Schools, Jewish Centers and works closely with the Department of Justice, FBI, New York State Police, Homeland Security and WJC Security Committee, conducting intelligence and threat assessments.


“Are we in a period that resembles 1933 Germany,” Weitzman asked.  “Categorically, no.  There is no State-sponsored violence.  Anti-Semitism has existed since Colonial times, but has competed with other prejudices. There was never any State-sponsored religion.”


“How do we fight it?  First, a working definition of anti-Semitism must be established, according to International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).   My institution, the Simon Wiesenthal Center has called for an FBI Task Force.  And anti-Semitism cannot be used as a political tool.  It is present on both Right and Left.


“Anti-Semitism should not define us a Jews.  Judaism as we choose to live as Jews should do that.  As the Pirke Avot states, ‘If I am not for myself, who will be for me?’  Fighting anti-Semitism begins with us.  We must fight and not be silent,” Weitzman stressed.