Hanukkah and Antisemitism

By Myra Clark-Siegel, Director, AJC Westchester/Fairfield


As we light the candles of Hanukkah, we commemorate driving out forces of darkness over the Jewish people. And we must continue to Shine a Light on the oldest hatred: antisemitism. 


The ongoing and increasingly horrific string of anti-Jewish rants that emanated from Kanye West (“Ye”) have perhaps drawn the most attention. Words matter. Eventually, many business partners severed business ties when this hate was made public.  


Then Brooklyn Nets star Kyrie Irving felt a need to tweet about a book and documentary filled with vicious antisemitic tropes, including a denial that the Holocaust happened. After declining to apologize, Irving was suspended for several games without pay. Only then did he say sorry – sort of. Whether anyone believes him is another matter. 


So much hate is directed against the Jewish people who comprise barely 2% of the U.S. population and just 0.2% across the globe. Yet, Jews are among the world’s leading recipients of hate. 


Consider AJC’s 2021 groundbreaking antisemitism survey, where one in four American Jews said they had experienced antisemitism in the last year. And 4 in 10 said they had changed their behavior to avoid being publicly identified as Jewish, such as self-censoring on social media, or not wearing a yarmulke or Star of David (Magen David) necklace. 


In 2022. In the United States of America. 


What’s more, the Jewish community is often not included in DEI (Diversity, Equity, Inclusivity) conversations or task forces, in schools, college campuses, or workplaces. As the number one target of all religiously based hate crimes according to the FBI, how is that possible? 


AJC is working to reduce those shocking numbers and situations through our Call to Action Against Antisemitism, and “Translate Hate” glossary that explains common antisemitic tropes. 


These resources provide guidance and tools to help leaders understand, respond to, and prevent antisemitism. Let’s be very clear: antisemitism is everyone’s problem. 


Importantly, many Westchester County municipal leaders have partnered with AJC and the U.S. Conference of Mayors to sign a powerful joint “Mayors United Against Antisemitism” statement. 


Indeed, AJC Westchester/Fairfield’s recent Thanksgiving Diversity Breakfast, with hundreds of extraordinary community partners from nearly every faith and background, highlighted the power of our communities standing strong together in unity as a Community of Conscience. 


Together, we can Shine a Light on these issues and celebrate the strength of our diverse communities. As we celebrate Hanukkah, let us rededicate ourselves to standing up against hatred and antisemitism, and strengthen our society overall. 



Myra Clark-Siegel is AJC Westchester/Fairfield regional director. To join our efforts: westchester@ajc.org