Israel is moving toward taking an unprecedented step in solidifying its support of the international Jewish community as it faces rising antisemitism by honoring those in the Diaspora murdered in hate-filled attacks.
The Ministry of Diaspora Affairs and Combating Antisemitism has formed a committee that will explore how best to memorialize non-Israeli Jews, and report its findings by September 1. The committee was launched as a result of the Israeli government’s adoption of the Ruderman Family Foundation’s ”Ruderman Roadmap”—strategic guidelines on Israel-Diaspora relations whose goal is to formalize the nation’s shift in approach toward those killed outside Israel.
“We want the State of Israel to say something powerful to Jews around the world: that this is the Jewish State and we have a duty to take responsibility for and care about Jews around the world,” said foundation program director Liat Dolengiewicz in a phone conversation from Israel with The Jewish Link.
According to the roadmap, Israel “should have a defined policy for marking, observing or conducting any state-sponsored act of solidarity with the memory of those who fell victim to antisemitic acts in the Diaspora for belonging to the Jewish people.”
Israeli law has long defined the annual observance of Yom Hazikaron as a commemoration of “the heroic deeds of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces who gave their lives to ensure the existence of the State of Israel and for the fighters of the Israel Defense Forces who fell in the struggle for the rebirth of Israel.”
The foundation introduced its initiative together with the World Zionist Organization and the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs.
Dolengiewicz said the foundation has been working on the roadmap for more than two years and stressed that one of its goals has always been strengthening the relationship between the American and Israeli Jewish communities.
The May 7 vote to form the committee was unanimous, and over the course of the summer such decisions as who gets recognized or the logistics of creating a database will be hashed out.
“By Sept. 1 we will have what will be a huge, unprecedented, historic step for the State of Israel with Jews around the world,” said Dolengiewicz. ”We are the Jewish people. Unfortunately antisemitism is rising around the world and we all agree this is a problem.”
She said the foundation believes the move will bolster the Diaspora’s relationship with Israel, letting those Jews know “Israel is the state of the Jewish people. We are there in good times and times of grief and mourning for Jews around the world. We have a shared destiny and a shared mutual respect, and we are responsible for one another. We hope the discussion that follows brings us together to fight the phenomena of antisemitism.”
Foundation Executive Director Shira Ruderman said in a prepared statement:
“This is a historic day for the Jewish people and the State of Israel. With this decision, the State of Israel has proved, without a shadow of a doubt, that it is the state of the Jewish people, and that only through our unity as a people and through the mutual guarantee between us can we guarantee our security and prosperity.”
The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report showed an uptick in antisemitism in the United States in 2022 to the highest levels since the ADL began tracking antisemitism in 1979, with New York leading the nation and New Jersey in third place.
It also noted that Jews are the most targeted religious group, Jewish institutions are vulnerable to attack, Jews are regularly targeted because of their actual or perceived support of Zionism and that antisemites have resorted to deadly violence against Jews.
Since 2016 deadly antisemitic attacks have taken place in El Paso, Texas; Pittsburgh and Poway, and in Orange County, California.
Locally, in December 2019 five people were injured, including one who later died of his injuries, when Grafton Thomas attacked a Hanukkah party at the home of a rabbi in Monsey. That same month in Jersey City, two members of an antisemitic offshoot of the Black Hebrew Israelites took the life of Jersey City Detective Joseph Seals, who encountered them in the city’s Bayview Cemetery. They then drove to the JC Kosher Supermarket, where they killed Mindel Ferencz, who ran the market with her husband; Moshe Deutsch, a rabbinical student who lived in Brooklyn, and an Ecuadorian immigrant employee, Miguel Douglas Rodriguez. The perpetrators were also shot and killed.
Debra Rubin is a staff writer with The Jewish Link.