By David Cohen
It is challenging to know what to make of the conversations surrounding the Jewish community these days, both in terms of our very safety and what we hear about Israel in the news. Recently, it was painful for many of us to watch as presidents of elite universities failed miserably to distinguish between protected speech and hate speech. But it goes along with a spate of such distortions of reality. Never in my life have I seen such a disturbing and traumatizing presentation of misinformation and bias aimed at the Jewish community and Israel.
Agree or disagree with the scope or collateral damage of the retaliatory measures in response to Oct 7th - some things simply cross a line.
- Defending one’s country from the worst attack on Jews since the Holocaust is NOT genocide or ethnic cleansing. It is called war. And we have been fighting it for decades.
- Any politician that frames the current situation in those terms needs to be censured and/or voted out of office. This is tantamount to Holocaust denial.
- No - Israel did not orchestrate 10/7 any more than Israel orchestrated 9/11. That is called a conspiracy theory and is blatant antisemitism. And no - the IDF did not commit the over 1,200 murders perpetrated by Hamas. That is called demonization, is also a conspiracy theory, and is also antisemitism.
- And absolutely NO – the reports of the abuse of hostages were not fabrications and were not social media fakes that had to be taken down. To say that is wrong, heinous, and if said by anyone in positions of authority – it demands an apology to the Jewish community NOW.
We are hopeful that a new initiative called the 10/7 Project will help with this surge in mischaracterizations and lies spread about Israel and the Jewish people. Started by the Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with a number of other national organizations, this initiative could not be more timely. Learn more at the10-7project.com.
What is also timely is a re-dedication of sorts. Not just the one we recently celebrated for Chanukah – but the re-dedication of the Jewish community to solidarity, identity building, and community togetherness. And why? Well, as many of you may have read in my recent message to the community – historically, the Jewish community has met tragedy and loss countless times with pro-active education, outreach, and advocacy. We educate the non-Jewish community about who we are. We strengthen our own Jewish identity building programs and services. And we call upon our non-Jewish friends and allies to have our backs.
For me, this is exactly what the new Grass Campus and the initiatives it will inspire are all about. It is our new and promising mode of inviting in the non-Jewish community to learn more about who we are – and that we are no different than they are. It is our modern and state-of –the-art center for learning and convening that will springboard our community into the decades to come. And it is the place where so much can be achieved to connect our community and create a new future in Harrisburg where Jewish identity is strengthened, celebrated, and shared.
This is what our Jewish Federation campaign to kindle the flame is all about. Now more than ever, connectivity to Israel and understanding of Israel is of utmost importance. Now more than ever, community security is a necessary and vital priority. Now more than ever, engaging seniors, young families, youth, and empty-nesters is what we must to do show the world that in spite of the worst tragedy to befall our community since the Holocaust, we move forward, we build community, and we thrive.
When you help us kindle the flame you join us in:
- Educating and Inspiring current and future Jewish leaders through Adult Education, Camp, Theater, and Early Learning Center programs.
- Serving as a Central Convener for Sports, Fitness, Arts and Culture, and important community gatherings at the very time when they are most needed.
- Combating Antisemitism through education, advocacy, and outreach.
- Securing our Community through physical infrastructure, cutting-edge technology, and an investment in comprehensive security planning.
- Connecting our Seniors through trips, activities, kosher meals - and more!
We pledge to push forward with this important work just as we promise to never forget those lost on October 7th. It is what we do.
Please join us to help dispel the darkness of anti-Jewish hate and anti-Israel venom. Please join us in this year’s campaign to help build the future of the Greater Harrisburg Jewish Community. Please join us and make your gift today at jewishharrisburg.org/give or by or by calling 717-346-0382.
From Strength to Strength!
David L. Cohen
President and CEO