The Jewish Observer
News from Middle Tennessee's Jewish Community | Saturday, April 13, 2024
The Jewish Observer

Community Relations Committee, April 2024

Last May, Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) hosted a book group discussion and program with author Dara Horn, related to her book, “People Love Dead Jews.”  The book has been awarded several honors and in his Jewish Book Council review of the book, Jonathan Fass writes: 


“Horn comes to the conclusion that anti­semitism has reemerged in America because “the last few generations of American non-Jews had been chagrined by the enormity of the Holocaustwhich had been perpetuated by America’s enemy, and which was gross enough to make anti­semitism socially unacceptable, even shameful. Now that people who remembered the shock of those events were dying off, the public shame associated with expressing anti­semitism was dying too. In other words, hating Jews was normal.” In the banality of this explanation, the reader comes to the conclusion that sometimes the truest answer is both the most painful and the least satisfying.” 


In the JCRC ongoing pursuit to better understand, confront and combat growing antisemitism, Horn is only the most recent expert to address us on this topic. Horn was preceded in Nashville by programs with other leading voices, Deborah Lipstadt, Bari Weiss, and Noa Tishby. These local programs with national experts, are designed to provide context, education, perspective, and insight into modern antisemitism and how we can work collectively to support each other in the Jewish community, and to develop a framework for how to engage with the general community on this vexing issue. 


But it is not a new endeavor. The hatred of Jews is very old, and the throughline of antisemitism has been the denial of truth and promotion of lies that lead to conspiracy theories. These conspiracy theories portray Jews as collectively evil, with no right to exist.  The propaganda and disinformation ascribe to Jews whatever is hateful in any society, which is why Jews can be vilified as both communists and evil greedy capitalists, how we can be both subhuman and omnipotent, both vermin and powerful. And why so many of us now feel vulnerable in new ways. We are being targeted and we are overwhelmed by the hateful rhetoric and images. And while many of these conspiracy theories and vicious images are not new, social media algorithms spread these lies exponentially faster than ever before. As Horn has said, “Doomscrolling through horror is very old.” 


Through her ongoing research, contextualization and focus on the topic, Horn continues to make the case for standing ever more proudly in our Jewish tradition and values, in the face of antisemitism. To share with others more, not less. To reach out to those who need to better understand who we are really, rather than how we are portrayed, more broadly, loudly, and proudly.  


In her recent remarks at the ADL Never is Now 2024 conference Horn addressed the crowd by the reminder that Jew hatred is not new and that each one of us has a responsibility to push back on those who seek to destroy us by investing in teaching people the truth. We need to create and provide expanded education about living Jews and Judaism, sharing our truth and our foundational core, including our rich history of social justice, resistance not only to idolatry, but our core resistance to tyranny, refusal to bow to tyrants, and the radical idea, thousands of years old, that we should all be free.  


Telling the truth requires courage.  


In her closing comments at the conference, Horn reminds us of the section of the Haftorah at the conclusion of the Torah in which God says to Joshua, “Hazak v’amatz” Be strong and courageous. We are well served to remember this blessing as we step into our truth, and use our strength, courage, and social capital to tell our story, and demand our right to exist. 


The upcoming JCRC Social Justice Seder on April 11 is a local opportunity to come together to share our tradition, values, and truth with others. Rabbi Tamar Manasseh, a living example of bridgebuilding and respect for multiple identities, will lead us as we delve into our history and tradition to find the strength and courage to maintain our right to fully express our Judaism, and for each of us to become confident in it for ourselves and with others. The Seder allows us to take Horn’s counsel and step up even more proudly into our tradition of social justice, and to share those lessons and foundational values with others. All are welcome to join us for this meaningful event as we highlight and amplify the story of the exodus, the imperative to pursue justice, the eternal quest for freedom, and the refusal to bow to tyrants.  



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