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I thought I had a good handle on the threat of antisemitism. I was wrong | Opinion

The seismic changes reverberating through the world since Oct. 7 are presenting us with a reality that demands our attention and demands our response. The horrific events of that day and the ensuing weeks have shaken me to the core, and what I thought I knew to be true on Oct. 6, I now find to be uncertain, if not simply wrong.

I thought I had a good handle on the nature, extent and threat of antisemitism to our safety and security as a people. I believed that Jew-hatred was limited to white nationalist, conspiracy theorists on the right; misguided and willfully ignorant people on the left; and radical jihadists abroad.

I was flat-out wrong.

In our cities, in our institutions of higher learning, and rampant in online comments and social media, the haters make no distinction between hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews. Anti-Zionism is thinly veiled antisemitism, plain and simple. The breathtaking increase in antisemitic incidents, attitudes held by young Americans toward Israel and toward Jews, and the celebration of Hamas as heroic anti-colonial liberators makes it clear that the world has changed.

I sincerely believe what is happening in Israel is not — at its root — about Israel. As history has taught us, Jews have often been the canaries in the coal mine, and the hate that begins with the Jews never ends with the Jews. The torrent of antisemitism in response to Israel’s attacks on Hamas is a dose of bitter reality we must not ignore. The world is teaching us that the idea of a Jewish safe haven can no longer be mischaracterized as an irrelevant historical trope borne from Holocaust PTSD.

I understand the inclination to draw parallels between today and the 1930s, but for the first time, I can actually see how it could happen here and it chills me to the bone.

Where it goes from here will come down to every freedom-loving person in the world, and there’s a particular responsibility for Jews in America.

The biggest difference between today and pre-war Europe is that we have an organized, influential and united Jewish community in America. The sacrifices being made today for the continued vitality and security of Israel allow us to live as free and proud Jews here in the diaspora.

We have to act in several critical ways to ensure our collective future.

First, whatever we are doing to support the social needs of our people in Israel, we must do more. In places like Miami, we are off to a good start. Of the $780 million the Jewish Federation system raised through the Israel Emergency Fund, an impressive $30 million came from Miami. This is emblematic of what must be done in the future.

Second, we absolutely must put aside whatever differences we have with one another — political, religious, etc. Nothing makes an antisemite happier than to see us fighting with each other. The neo-Nazis don’t care if we are Republican or Democrat.

And lastly, we must ask ourselves, “How important is it to me to make sure that the Jewish people are safe, that our children’s children grow up as engaged, proud and free Jews, or that the most vulnerable among us are not forgotten?”

If Jews are not safe everywhere, then Jews will not be safe anywhere, and our fate is inextricably linked to the security of Israel and the well-being of Jews throughout the world. How we fare through the next chapter in history will depend largely on how much we care and how much we are willing to invest in our future. It is in our hands.

Adapted from remarks by Jacob Solomon, outgoing president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation on Feb. 18. Solomon is retiring after serving the Jewish community for more than 40 years. More information at JewishMiami.org.