Now is the time to speak up and act!

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY



 

 

On March 19, the JCRCs across the state were so excited that Bill S1292 and Bill S2937 were finally going to be voted on by the Senate State Wagering, Tourism, & Historic Preservation committee. Bill S1292 simply establishes a clear and concise explanation of antisemitism by adopting the IHRA definition and allocates $100,000 to a statewide public awareness campaign. Bill S2937 mandates the inclusion of definitions of antisemitism and Islamophobia in the state’s diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging policies, as well as in any such policy for recipients of state funds.

It should have been no surprise, but it was that within 48 hours of the billing being placed on the agenda, the opposition mobilized and managed to cause such a ruckus that the Senate chair pulled the bill for vote. We did everything right by the book and were ready to state our case and alas the rug was pulled out from us.

Now is the time we need to act. This is not a job that someone else will do or a national organization will take care of. Senator Beach’s office received thousands of letters of opposition in a matter of days. Only a handful of support came from our community. We must take the time to write heartfelt letters, reply to automated letters (although personal letters are more likely to be read), make calls, and make our voices heard. For a people fighting to keep Israel a democracy, we must use our democratic system in the US to support the needs and security of our communities. Never in history have we had a chance to have our voices heard like now, so let’s not be silent.

We are thrilled that our dear friend and ally, Senator Beach, along with Senator Singer, were the ones to submit this bill. They need to hear from us today to tell them why it is so important to pass the IHRA definition. The IHRA definition is not legally binding but clearly states what is considered antisemitic, which is a useful tool for law enforcement, schools, businesses, and the average person. Nothing about the IHRA definition takes away free speech rights. If someone wishes to shout antisemitic slurs, they can, but with the IHRA definition, a school can call it what it is and issue consequences.

Email Senator Beach at Sen- Beach@njleg.org

For a full list of Senators from your district and the committee members, please visit our website: www.jcrcsnj.org

The JCRC will also be hosting a series of Zoom calls to answer questions about the IHRA definition as well as assist in advocacy efforts. If you would like to learn more, please refer to our schedule at www.jcrcsnj.org

In the same vein as writing letters, we had a powerful Middle East Institute with guest speakers Emily Austin and Ryan Lavarnway last month. Both speakers are outspoken advocates for Israel and embracing Jewish pride. I was particularly inspired by Emily when she talked about the need for everyone to be on social media regardless of age or skill set. Our battleground is on social media, and if we don’t all start working to change the algorithms with comments, likes, and posts, we are just paddling upstream. I am challenging myself to engage more and to come out of my anti-social media shell to fight the battle. I’m not always comfortable posting, nor do I know what I am doing on Instagram, but this is where we need to be.

A prime example was the IHRA hijacking. Our opposition took to social media and has misinformed and changed the narrative, making the IHRA definition an enemy of free speech rather than letting it be a useful tool to protect the rights and freedoms of the Jews.

We have the power to change the negative narrative if we can step out of our comfort zones. It is scary, and it takes effort, but we MUST find the time and courage to ACT NOW. We can use our voices to sway our elected officials and our technology to educate the masses.

sspector@jfedsnj.org