Antisemitism is not a new problem – sadly, Jews have faced discrimination and persecution for thousands of years. One thing that is remarkable about the history of antisemitism is the way this form of hate transforms itself and adapts as societies change and evolve. Today’s challenge is how to address and effectively combat contemporary antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment in our world as it expresses itself now.
The first step to becoming an ally in the fight against antisemitism involves education. It’s important to understand what Jew hatred is, how to recognize its various forms, and its impact on the Jewish community and beyond.
What does it mean to be Jewish? Have you ever thought about who the Jews are?
Jews are an ethno-religious group with ancestral roots in Israel. Relatively speaking, Jews today are extremely few in number. In total, there are only about 15 million Jews in a world population of more than 7.5 billion people – just 0.2% of the global population.
Historically, there have been large and vibrant Jewish communities in such diverse places as China, India, Iraq, Egypt, Ethiopia and Afghanistan but sadly, very few Jews remain in these countries today, in large part due to antisemitism.
Today, nearly half of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel, with large communities in countries like the United States, France and Canada. Canada is home to approximately 400,000 Jews.
The most commonly accepted definition of antisemitism is the one adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, which states:“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.”· According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the “working definition was developed as a non-legal tool to facilitate more accurate and uniform monitoring of antisemitism across the countries that have adopted it, and to educate officials and the broader public about the diverse forms of antisemitism.”
Formally adopted by Canada in June 2019, the IHRA working definition of antisemitism has been officially endorsed by 37 countries and hundreds of provinces, municipalities, and other diverse organizations.“Jewish communities across Canada are threatened and targeted in their neighborhoods, in the streets, on campuses, and in their communities. We have seen torched synagogues, memorials defaced, institutions vandalized, and cemeteries desecrated. Historically, and still today, Jewish people remain one of the most targeted minorities with respect to hate crimes—globally and in Canada. This is further provoked by the incendiary antisemitic hate we see on social media platforms, which incentivize offline violence.” —Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism