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Sunday, September 19, 2021
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Judith Rosenbluth is no stranger to online hate. The 20-year-old Frisch graduate and current University of Maryland student calls herself an “Israel activist” on social media and Instagram, both on her personal pages and on those she helps with as a fellow with the organizations Israel21c and Israel Hasbarah. Her activism has opened her up to a barrage of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment.

“I’m constantly DM’d, and I have to monitor my comments,” she said, adding that “It’s not my responsibility to change their minds. I have to put out content that I feel is relevant, important and adding to or starting a conversation.”

Rosenbluth was one of thousands who turned out in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, July 11, for “No Fear: A Rally in Solidarity With the Jewish People.” Sponsored by a cross section of primarily Jewish organizations, the event included speeches by TV personality Meghan McCain; actress and author Noa Tishby; Arizona State Rep. Alma Hernandez; deputy assistant to President Joe Biden Erika Moritsugu; Executive Director of the Institute for Black Solidarity with Israel Joshua Washington; and Elisha Wiesel, whose father was famed writer and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Other speakers included Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha Synagogue, where 11 congregants lost their lives on a Shabbat morning when their shul was attacked by an antisemitic terrorist in October 2018, and Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, the Chabad-Lubavitch emissary in Boston who was stabbed eight times in an antisemitic attack by a Muslim man.

Speaking in Hebrew, with a fellow Chabad emissary translating, Noginski announced he will be opening a new Jewish education center to ordain eight new rabbis for the eight times he was stabbed.

“I stood a moment from death,” he told the crowd. But knowing that 100 children were inside his Chabad house at the time, Noginski said, “I did everything I could to keep him away from the school. [His] real target was the children. Thank God I ruined his plans … ”

According to the organizers, some 3,000 people attended the rally, many sitting off to the sides under shady old-growth trees to escape the scorching midday heat.

Those who attended represented a cross section of the Jewish world, geographically and religiously. There was Joseph from Seattle and Marcel, who lives in Boston, but is originally from Colombia; there was a mother and daughter from Maryland and a contingent from Michigan. Locally, there were organized bus groups from Westchester and New York City, and from Bergen, Essex and Monmouth Counties and beyond.

Some attendees wore T-shirts identifying them as supporters for this Jewish group or that Jewish organization. Others carried Israeli flags or “No More Antisemitism” signs. Many donned “#NoFear” hats that rally organizers distributed during the event.

What bound everyone together was the sense that not enough is being done to combat antisemitism and it is time to take a stand and speak out.

“Jews have to stand up,” declared Hank Kaplowitz of Union, New Jersey, who is founding director of the Human Rights Institute at Kean University and attended the rally with members of his synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel in Millburn. “We know we are all responsible for each other and staying in our nice suburban area is not enough.”

Robin Amster of West Orange commented, “Hearing firsthand from victims of antisemitism was powerful. It is scary to think that this is happening on US soil, and inspiring to hear the victims’ determination to stand up. I am grateful that I have not experienced antisemitism firsthand, but I realize that I still need to share my voice with politicians so they can get the message. Knowing that there are allies out there, such as the Egyptian Zionist and former White Supremacist who spoke, reminds us that we are not alone in this. Antisemitism hurts other minorities as well. We have to continue to be vocal.”

Rabbi Nuriel Klinger—the assistant rabbi at Young Israel of Scarsdale and part of the 50-strong Westchester delegation—said that because of the rise in antisemitism “some people are scared to be outwardly Jewish, and even if they are outwardly proud, there is a hint of looking over our shoulders. In the United States in 2021, that’s terrifying and we shouldn’t have to face that.”

Shayna Goldwasser, 15, pushed some family members—including her father, Phil Goldwasser; older brother; and grandmother—to attend the rally. “I got my dad to find a bus that was going,” said the Golda Och Academy student. “I’ve never been to a rally to protest like this and I was really interested. It’s important to me to be a part of something and represent my community.”

Many of the attendees made clear that they are concerned not just about the number of incidents, but about the lack of attention to the issue from lawmakers and the media. Some specifically pointed out that antisemitic incidents are couched in terms like “bias incident” or “possible hate crime” whereas when other minorities, such as Asian-American or Muslim-Americans, are attacked, those same qualifiers are not used.

“To stand up against antisemitism should be so obvious,” said Jeff Neugroschl of Teaneck. “But for some reason antisemitism gets a pass.” He attended the rally with his wife, CB Neugroschl, head of school at Ma’ayanot, who said it was just as important to be heard on the national level as on the local level.

“Our community has shown significant unity in facing local crises. We know how to be there for each other,” CB Neugroschl said. “Now is the time to act with the same unity and focus on a national level to assure that our voices are heard denouncing all forms of antisemitism.”

Speaking before the rally, organizer and founder of the Alliance4Israel Melissa Landa said her goal was for people “to feel a sense of pride, to hold their heads high and not hide their Jewishness, and to remember they are Americans who have the right to live in safety and security asserting their religious liberties granted to them by the U.S. Constitution.”

That goal, said many, was accomplished.

Tapping his finger against his “#NoFear” rally cap, Phil Goldwasser said, “We are here and we are not afraid. We are Americans, we’re here and we are proud to be Jewish.”

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