What Does It Mean to be An Ally?

Allyship is a process of relationship-building based on cooperation, effort and mutual respect. In the context of multiple groups, allyship may be referred to as “coalition-building” or “solidarity.” Being an ally presents opportunities to foster awareness and growth. It requires us to reflect on our privileges and ask ourselves how we can leverage it to help others. An ally is someone who:

  • Has strong, genuine concern for the well-being of others that face discrimination or hate.
  • Educates others on the history and realities of marginalized people.
  • Supports and accepts all people, regardless of religious denomination or race, and advocates for fair treatment and equal rights for all.
  • Allyship is essential to building the relationships and networks required to create a cohesive, multicultural and democratic society.

Authentic vs. Performative Allyship

When getting involved in allyship work, you should ask yourself: “Is the allyship I’m offering “authentic” or “performative” in nature?” Authentic allyship involves educating yourself effectively, examining your personal biases, holding yourself and others accountable, and having empathy and courage to speak up.

On the other hand, ‘performative’ allyship is self-serving and self-glorifying. It consists of showing off on public profiles/social media, posting about something that is a ‘hot topic’ in the news, and/or being unwilling or resentful of engaging in meaningful action. To be an effective ally, it’s important to practice authentic allyship.

How do I become an ‘ally’ and take action?

Personal Allyship

1. Engage in introspection: question yourself

Allyship is a process of relationship-building based on cooperation, effort and mutual respect. In the context of multiple groups, allyship may be referred to as “coalition-building” or “solidarity.” Being an ally presents opportunities to foster awareness and growth. It requires us to reflect on our privileges and ask ourselves how we can leverage it to help others. An ally is someone who:

2. Be critical when engaging with the media

Jews are often represented in the news or other forms of media. When you see these representations, ask yourself, “does this relate to the disinformation about Jews being perpetuated?” We must think deeply about how embedded antisemitism is in Western and other cultures.

3. Learn about Jewish experiences

Understand what it means to be Jewish. Although we often learn about Jewish hatred , it’s imperative to understand that the Jewish experience is so much more than just antisemitism. Jews are a highly resilient nation and ethnic group that has created incredible culture and made untold major contributions to the world.

4. Prioritize and seek out the Jewish voice

Jews must be allowed to tell Jewish stories. They must be given space to advocate for themselves. Allyship is not about speaking over Jews, it’s about giving space and listening when they speak about their experiences.

5. Give space to Jews to share their experiences without imposing preconditions or your own preconceptions

Jews must be able to define their identities and experiences. Non-Jews will have their own ideas of these things based on the socialization they have experienced. That’s okay. But allyship is about listening and understanding and questioning our own ideas and not imposing them on a community of which we are not a part.

How can I Be an Ally When I Observe Antisemitism in my Workplace School or Community? Allyship

1. Name it

If it’s antisemitism, call it antisemitism. For example, although the swastika had a very different history before the Holocaust, it was co-opted by Nazis and today in North America, along with many other parts of the world, it represents the murder of six million Jewish men, women, and children along with millions of other victims. The Nazi salute, using phrases like ‘heil Hitler,’ replacing the Star of David with a swastika on the Israeli flag – these are forms of antisemitism.

To cultivate an environment where people feel safe and heard, when someone comes forward about being discriminated against, or as being the victim of a hate incident or antisemitism, it is important to make this individual feel supported and acknowledge that it’s a serious issue that will be addressed.

2. Educate

Educate yourself about the history of antisemitism and how it affects Jewish communities today. Teach about what antisemitism looks like, and the misuse and power of words and symbols. Additionally, educate others about what it means to be Jewish. Let Jewish voices stand alongside all others. If given the opportunity, provide people with appropriate resources. Give them tools to learn about antisemitism/discrimination, as well as action plans with steps on what to do when experiencing and/or witnessing a situation of discrimination or a hate-related incident. For example, circulating the Ally Tool Kit or providing a list of relevant articles and books is a good starting point.

3. Give space for a multitude of Jewish voices

Enable learning about the rich diversity of what it means to be Jewish. Invite Jewish colleagues, students, and/or friends to comment if a situation or incident occurs and allow them the chance to explain their perspective. Provide Jews with a safe space to speak their truth.

4. Stand up and speak out

Be an ally. Be a voice that supports Jewish students, friends and/or colleagues. Don’t wait for someone Jewish to speak out against antisemitism – use your voice.

5. Reach out

If someone you know has experienced discrimination/antisemitism, reach out and provide support. Know that there are many organizations working in this space to support you – Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center is one of those organizations.

Digital Activism:
Social Media/Online Allyship

What is “digital activism”?

Digital activism utilizes digital tools like your phone, computer and social media to affect social or political change. With a quick search, we are bombarded with information about things happening around the world. Thus, it’s important to know how to utilize the technology available to us to engage and educate, while doing right by others. (Note – on side graphic: “Stay safe while interacting online and prepare for backlash. Speaking out does not come without costs; for example, the way in which people respond to you, etc.”)

Allyship through Social Media

Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are effective in spreading the messages of a movement, gathering support and sharing/exchanging information. To be a ‘digital’ ally, try to find, for example, Facebook groups connected to issues you’re passionate about and wish to support. Social media platforms, like Facebook, are also useful for finding events, organizing and sharing initiatives, knowledge and resources.

In addition to Facebook, Instagram has emerged as a popular platform for activists and sharing information. Find accounts that cover or support Jewish rights, the Holocaust, fighting antisemitism and other issues you are passionate about. Follow activists. Look for events like webinars, town halls, local community initiatives and the like. For example, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Instagram page features daily posts about our upcoming events, in person and online.

Also, follow trending hashtags on Twitter and follow activists as well as human rights organizations, individuals or politicians that support Jewish rights and the fight against antisemitism.

Reporting Social Media and News Content

While social media platforms aid in activism and information dissemination, they can also spread hate speech, bias and misinformation (NOTE – popup/link to Michael’s column). Ahmed Shaheed, the UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, noted in a 2019 report growing concerns over online platforms that permit hate speech. Some examples include platforms such as “Gab” (a Twitter-like platform) and “4chan.”

Antisemitism online is growing and contributing to rising hate crimes. According to B’nai Brith Canada’s Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, in 2021 there were 2,799 antisemitic incidents in Canada, and a 12% rise in online antisemitism. To be an ally on social media, watch for posts on social platforms that include antisemitic rhetoric, Jew-hate, anti-Israel hate, hate crimes, hate speech, discrimination, etc.

If you notice any activity on social media or in the news, flag it directly on the platform, and to FSWC’s advocacy department respectively. If you see any hateful content, tag us, direct message us or email us at: .

Practical Scenarios:

There is no singular “one size fits all” response that an ally should follow when confronted with antisemitism. The way an ally responds to an antisemitic incident can depend on a wide variety of factors – for example, comfort level with your peers/colleagues, and institutional supports that may or may not be available. This section provides practical advice on how you, as an ally, can respond if you witness any of the following scenarios, which can be adapted to fit specific circumstances:

1) An individual who considers themself a staunch anti-racist makes a series of anti-Israel/anti-Jewish posts on social media (ex: memes with warped images of Jews with racist features, accusing Israel of apartheid, etc.) and shares it widely.

2) An individual uses the expression of having been ‘Jewed’ out of something, or otherwise casually expresses a negative stereotype about Jews – they are rich, powerful, control Hollywood, media, etc.

3) An individual mentions something about being Jewish (i.e. notes a Jewish holiday is coming up), and someone makes a comment afterwards about how awful Israel is, oppression of Palestinians, etc.

4) A workplace, school, or other institution has diversity and inclusion programming and events that focus on many minority communities and their struggle against discrimination and hate, but not on Jews and the fight against antisemitism.

5) An anonymous workplace survey goes around asking individuals to self-identify their ethnicity. The survey gives “Jewish” as an option under the “white” category.

How can an ally respond? Consider the following:

Are there Jewish staff members, students, and/or friends you can turn to?

If so, bring the incident to their attention and ask them to share their view and/or knowledge in relation to the incident if they feel comfortable and safe to do so.

Is there a human resources representative at your company, or a guidance counsellor at your school that you trust?

If so, consult with this individual. Work collaboratively to determine the appropriate steps to take and/or report the incident.

Have you brought the incident to the attention of management or someone in a position of authority?

If necessary, discuss the incident further with someone in an upper management/leadership role. Ensure that incidents are addressed and discussed openly so they won’t reoccur.

Is there an anonymous reporting system at your company/school/organization?

Many institutions have an anonymous reporting system to allow employees to confidentially submit an incident report and share valued feedback on issues about discrimination and/or harassment. This way, targeted individuals can express their concerns without fear of retaliation or identification.

Is there a third party that
can provide assistance?

If you think an impartial opinion or assistance is necessary, contact us; we will keep your information fully confidential and offer you support.

Myths and Facts

Jews come from Europe.

Jews originated in the area of present-day Israel. After a series of political and religious-based conflicts and antisemitic persecution, many Jews left the region and migrated to other parts of the world. As early as the third century BCE, Jewish communities sprang up in the Aegean islands, Greece, Asia Minor, Italy and Egypt. From there, the Jewish diaspora continued to grow over centuries, and today, Jews live in almost every part of the world.

Jew-hate/antisemitism is not a form of racism.

Race is a concept without a clear and unanimous meaning. However, racial understandings of Judaism were at the heart of Nazi ideology and practice – for example, Jewish bodies, minds, faces, and genetics were racialized in their political philosophy. Historically and currently, antisemites often use racist theory to prove the morality of their hatred of Jews. Therefore, Jews do experience racism.

Jew-hate is less important than other forms of hate.

The Jewish experience of exclusion and discrimination is just as important as the exclusion and discrimination faced by other communities. Antisemitism is systemic and deeply embedded in various facets of society and has been for centuries.

Antisemitism began/ended with the Holocaust.

While the term ‘antisemitism’ was coined only in the 19th century, hatred of and discrimination against Jews dates back thousands of years. The force and universality of anti-Jewish sentiment was alive and well long before its deadly culmination in the Holocaust. Indeed, antisemitism fueled Hitler’s genocidal desire to exterminate European Jewry, but this hatred and the deeply embedded ideas behind it did not suddenly end after World War II and the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. Sadly, antisemitism remains a persistent reality in society today.

Jewish people control society.

The idea that Jews control society has long been an antisemitic trope for political, economic and social ends. While there are individuals with Jewish backgrounds in high-profile positions/sectors, it doesn’t mean that everything in society is “controlled by Jews.” Ultimately, conspiracy theory is at the heart of antisemitism.

Bystander Intervention (what to do if you witness antisemitism or a hate crime/incident?)

Bystander Intervention reinforces a sense of community. It’s about recognizing someone else’s struggle or pain, and modeling empathy without necessarily abandoning your safety. Being an active bystander sends a message to those that cause harm, that harassment visibility and acknowledgement is widespread, and that people will be held accountable for their actions.If you are a witness to antisemitism or a hate crime/incident, remember the Five Steps of Bystander Intervention:

De-escalate and Amplify Voices
  • To de-escalate a situation, you do not have to confront the perpetrator directly. Instead, to amplify the voice of the victim, consider starting a conversation with the person that was targeted by hate or discrimination. This will draw the attention away from them.
  • In a situation online, one can also amplify the voice of the person being harassed – i.e. if they posted something that is attracting hate speech and abusers in the comments, repost and share the target’s original post. This demonstrates support and shows the person being harassed that their voice is important.
Inform and Report
  • Get everyone’s attention! Assess the risk at hand, inform other people in the area (or online) and ask for their help. If someone is being harassed, ask others to report it as well. Locate individuals (ex: authority figures, bystanders, human rights organizations, etc.) who can take on support roles for the person(s) targeted.
  • In a situation online, this can look like getting others to mass report inappropriate comments and/or content, seeking help from a friend, or requesting assistance from the people in charge of the social media platform you are on.
  • If safe to do so, confront the harasser. Directly intervene by speaking up about the harassment you’ve witnessed. This is important to firmly display a sense of solidarity and allyship. After making sure it’s safe to do so (either in person or online), address the person causing harm and tell them to stop. Then, privately speak to or message the victim to ask if they need help.
  • In a situation online, some specific ways to directly intervene can look like sending supportive comments to the person experiencing abuse, and/or fact-checking claims to ensure there’s no misinformation.
Support the Victim
  • Delay your response directed at the perpetrator by instead focusing on the person facing hate. Assure them that you stand with them and that they are not alone. This can be as simple as approaching the individual privately with kind words. The trauma of an inactive bystander can sometimes be worse for the victim than the actual incident. Any kind of recognition or action lets the individual know that they matter.
  • In a situation online, this can look like privately messaging the person facing hate, checking on their well-being and mental health, offering kind words, or giving them external resources to deal with the after-effects of harassment.
  • In the case of a hate-related incident, it’s important to document what you witnessed. This can be vital information for the victim to reference at a later date. Examples of documentation include taking videos, pictures or writing notes to show as proof.
  • NOTE: If the incident occurs in a public area, the perpetrator forfeits their right to privacy and your right to record is legally protected.
  • In a situation online, take screenshots and document hate and harassment that you are confronted with. Make sure to collect screenshots, usernames, times and dates and the platform you saw the incident happen on. Look for:
  • Date and time
  • Location (name of website or app)
  • Type of electronic communication (posted image, social media comment, direct message, event, etc.)
  • Nature of the online incident (antisemitic remarks, images, etc.)
  • URL if it is available

How can I support a victim of a hate incident / discrimination / antisemitism?

If you know someone that was a victim of a hate crime/incident, consider the following:

Prioritize safety

In these situations, it’s critical to prioritize the physical safety of all involved. Trust your instincts, remove yourself from the situation and reach out to others to ensure further safety.

Remain calm

Being a target of a hate crime/incident is never the victim’s fault. Violence and intimidation are never acceptable. However, to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation, you should prioritize de-escalation over confronting the perpetrator.

Set boundaries and    reclaim safe space

If you can do so safely, verbally establish physical boundaries and call the perpetrator out on their behaviour. Calling attention to their actions and publicly shaming them may de-escalate the situation and will make others aware of the incident.

Record the incident

Help the victim record any defining characteristics of the perpetrator if you can. Write down their age, gender, height, race, clothes, weight and any other distinguishable characteristics. Reliving the incident can be traumatic but recording what happened is crucial for filing a report and bringing the perpetrator(s) to justice.

Report the incident

Help the victim reach out to the police/local law enforcement to file a report of the incident. If you file a police report, make sure to record the officer’s name and badge number, get your own copy of the police report (preliminary reports included), and ensure the incident is filed as a ‘hate crime/incident.’

How to File a Complaint with FSWC
To file an official complaint, return to https://www.friendsofsimonwiesenthalcenter.com/ and visit the page titled “Report Antisemitism.” Here you can fill out an online form with details of the incident. A member of our Advocacy Department will review the information and promptly determine the appropriate steps for action and will be back in touch with you.


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