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'There is a growing frustration, anxiety level among Jews'

Amid rising US antisemitism, Jewish groups plan July 11 solidarity rally in DC

‘NO FEAR: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People’ set to take place in Washington with a ‘big tent’ of Jewish groups; co-organized by Elisha Wiesel

A man holds a placard during a protest organized by Jewish associations, who say justice has not been done for the killing of French Jewish woman Sarah Halimi, at Trocadero Plaza near Eiffel Tower in Paris, April 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)
A man holds a placard during a protest organized by Jewish associations, who say justice has not been done for the killing of French Jewish woman Sarah Halimi, at Trocadero Plaza near Eiffel Tower in Paris, April 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Michel Euler)

NEW YORK — Alarmed by rising antisemitism at home and abroad, a coalition of Jewish organizations is planning to converge on Washington, DC, for a solidarity rally on July 11.

Set to take place next to the United States Capitol Building, “NO FEAR: A Rally in Solidarity with the Jewish People” will feature the voices of “victims of antisemitism and elected officials across the denominational and political spectrum,” according to publicity.

Confirmed rally speakers include actress Noa Tishby, activist Blake Flayton, and Alma Hernandez, member of the Arizona House of Representatives since 2019.

In an interview with The Times of Israel, rally co-organizer Elisha Wiesel — the son of late Holocaust survivor and human rights icon Elie Wiesel — said that “Jews are fed up with feeling like nobody is showing up to stand with them.”

According to Wiesel, next Sunday’s rally was initially proposed by Melissa Landa, founder of the group Alliance for Israel. Both activists are driven by the goal of creating “as big a tent as possible” in responding to antisemitism, said Wiesel.

“I wanted to be part of a larger effort to take a stand against antisemitism,” Landa told The Times of Israel.

The lead sponsors of the rally are Alliance for Israel, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee (AJC), and B’nai B’rith International. Illustrating the cause’s diverse appeal, said Wiesel, the Orthodox Union and the Union of Reform Judaism both joined the growing list of supporting organizations.

Elisha Wiesel at a rally for Israel and against antisemitism in Lower Manhattan, May 23, 2021. (Shachar Azran/Israeli-American Council)

“Opening the door wider is starting to work,” said Wiesel, who co-founded the Witness Institute with Ariel Burger, one of his father’s favorite students.

According to text for the upcoming rally, “We welcome all Zionist, Jewish organizations, and allies. If you believe we have a right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish people both here in the United States and in Israel, then you belong with us.”

In Wiesel’s assessment, the rally will be “an important and decisive moment for the organizations” that signed on as supporters. As opined by some observers of American Jewry in recent weeks, the conflict between Israel and Hamas saw the community — including Jewish members of Congress — “split into factions” like never before.

“Half of the Jewish people live in Israel,” said Wiesel, reaffirming his Zionist credentials. “We deserve a Jewish state. It’s the only one.”

For self-identified “grassroots activist” Landa, the rally is also a response to the events of May and June, when Jews were physically assaulted in several US cities.

Melissa Landa, founder of Alliance for Israel (courtesy)

“There is a growing frustration and level of anxiety among Jews,” said Landa.

Founded by Landa in 2019, Alliance for Israel “prepares members to confront Israel’s antagonists face-to-face — in schools, churches, community centers, and college campuses — and to confidently expose the destructive antisemitic lies of the BDS movement,” according to the group’s mission statement.

Landa said her alliance fields “regional response coordinators” throughout the country, and volunteers are organizing buses to the rally from Philadelphia, Raleigh, New York, and other cities.

“We are crossing all lines — denominational, religious, political — to fight antisemitism,” said Landa.

In addition to attacks on Jews related to the Israel-Hamas conflict, recent assaults on Jews include the stabbing of a Boston rabbi and bullets fired through synagogue windows. Dozens of Jewish institutions have been vandalized across the US since May, including Holocaust museums, Chabad houses, and schools.

“At the ADL, we know that Jews in the US are deeply concerned about rising antisemitism in recent years, punctuated by deadly and violent incidents in Pittsburgh, Poway, Boston, and what we just witnessed during the Israel/Hamas crisis in May,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.

US author and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel addressing the United Nations General Assembly in New York, January 24, 2005. (AFP/DON EMMERT)

“This concern for Jewish security — worldwide — overrides disagreements over Israeli policies and approaches,” Greenblatt told The Times of Israel.

Wiesel said the legacy of his father has “loomed large” for him recently. In particular, Wiesel is thinking about how his father would have attempted to unify a fractured Jewish community, he said.

“My father had relationships on both sides of the aisle and he had a passport into every Jewish community in the world,” said Wiesel.

The writer is director of the Holocaust Education Center at StandWithUs, one of the rally’s supporting organizations.

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