This has been another very hard week for us, the Jewish community.

The attack in New Jersey led to the murder of Mindy Ferencz, Moshe Deutsch and Detective Joseph Seals by two individuals who hated Jews and law enforcement.

The election in the UK thankfully saw the defeat of Corbyn who was named as the top anti-Semitic person of 2019 by the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

And there is terrible concern over President Trump’s Executive Order on Combating Anti-Semitism which was signed Wednesday evening. Leading up to this signing, it had been reported that the Executive Order would define the Jewish people as a nationality. For many American Jews, the idea that our nationality might be defined by our Jewishness was frightening. It turns out that the Executive Order does not define Judaism as a nationality. It does require authorities to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance – IHRA’s definition of anti-Semitism when “enforcing Title VI, and identifying evidence of discrimination based on race, color, or national origin.” This definition is one that national leaders on both sides of the aisle have sought to incorporate into federal law. It’s one adopted by more than a dozen countries and many NGO’s (Non-governmental organization). It’s supported by the ADL. When faced with possible violations of Title VI, Trump’s Executive Order directs authorities to rely on the IHRA definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” The incorporation of this definition is a good thing.

The concern that our Judaism might be labeled as our nationality got many of us thinking and talking about what our Jewish label really means. For many, Judaism is our religion, but many Jews consider themselves to be secular. Our Jewishness doesn’t define our race.  As a people, we’re made up of many different races and one can convert to Judaism. You can’t convert to a race! Judaism is a culture and an ethnic group that’s made up of many different cultures and ethnicities.  Our roots are deep and diverse. Our stories reflect our experiences in countries across the planet. At the same time, we’re a people who are descendants of the great ancient nation of Israel. Today, many of us are Israeli citizens of the incredible modern State of Israel and, no matter where we call home, many of us are proud to support Israel. We do so as proud Americans and/or citizens of other nations – so, while we’re one people, we’re not one modern nation.

While the fear that rippled through our community this week as a result of the press surrounding the Executive Order was unnecessary, it was understandable. The hate directed at us is overwhelming and many of us are rightfully on edge. What we need to remember is that no matter how your Judaism defines who you are, it does make you an important part of the diverse, complicated, beautiful civilization we call Judaism.  We can’t be easily labeled, and this should make us proud. Though we’re diverse, we’re a family. We need to stand together, take care of each other, celebrate each other and protect each other. We’re in this together.

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