The Temple de Hirsch Sinai synagogue in Seattle was hit with anti-Semitic spraypaint. Photo courtesy of YouTube.

Standing Together Against Anti-Semitism


There is a midrash that, when standing at Sinai to receive the Torah, each person received their own personal revelation but responded in one voice, saying, “Na’aseh v’nishma” — “We will do and we will hear.” It is in that exquisite moment that we became one People. Each of us is an individual, but we — and our fate — are inextricably linked, and we are each responsible for one another.

 The Jewish community today is under attack, with more than 148 terrorist threats to our institutions in more than 30 different communities. Hate-filled vandalism and desecration of our sacred places are being perpetrated to wreak havoc and instill fear. Whenever the Jewish community is threatened in such a vile and insidious way, na’aseh v’nishma — we must stand together to face the challenges of the day in a decisive and powerful way. We may come from different vantage points, denominations, walks of life — we may differ from each other in a thousand ways — but nothing compares to that which unites us. This has been true throughout our history as a Jewish People. 

Now we are putting that shared bond to work on behalf of the entire community. As Jewish organizations of all stripes, we will not stand idly by where there is need, and we will certainly not stand idly by while our people and institutions are terrorized. We are all stronger when we work together. 

In the past few weeks since these threats have magnified in number and scope, Jewish Federations have been active on several fronts:

1)  Local Federations are serving as conveners to bring institutions and leadership together to respond to specific threats and attacks, develop plans to expand security resources and mobilize gatherings where appropriate to demonstrate solidarity. Our JCCs have faced significant challenges with calm and determination, and we salute all of their efforts as well.

 2) Through our Secure Community Network (SCN), we are working with federal officials in law enforcement and homeland security to aid investigations of bomb threats and cemetery desecrations. We are grateful to the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and local law enforcement, all of whom have been our partners in facing this challenge.

3) Working with a bipartisan group of congressional leaders and other coalition partners, JFNA is working toward a dramatic expansion of funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps nonprofit groups in religious and ethnic communities targeted by hate crimes.

4) Within the next few weeks we will be enabling every Federation to implement a new, powerful and cost-efficient emergency notification system to link them with the leadership of local Jewish institutions and organizations to enable immediate response to crisis situations.

5) We are working in lock-step collaboration with the Anti-Defamation League and other organizations, communicating daily and leveraging our shared resources and vast reach.

6) JFNA will be convening with the JCC Association of North America, Hillel International, Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools and the Foundation for Jewish Camp to ensure coordination of efforts and best practices among these critical national organizations, which serve the widest spectrum of communal agencies affected by these threats and attacks.

 We will not be deterred or distracted by infighting or petty grievances. We will stay the course and guarantee that when our family, friends and neighbors participate in the wonderful mosaic that is Jewish life, they will find the meaning, community and security they seek.

 Na’aseh v’nishma — standing together as one.

 Richard Sandler is chair of the Board of Trustees and Jerry Silverman is president and CEO of The Jewish Federations of North America