We are responding to the Oct. 15 letter by Katherine Head regarding the Montgomery County Council’s proposed adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. The definition itself is very simple:

“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.”

Ms. Head misdirects the definition and obfuscates its intent, which has as its purpose a simple definition of antisemitism, instead focusing on the incorrect notion that the definition prevents criticism of specific Israeli government policies. This is false. Rather, the IHRA definition clarifies that denying Jews the right to self-determination by calling for the destruction of the state of Israel, singling out and demonizing Israel for failing to meet higher standards than other democratic countries are held to and fail to meet, and holding individual Jews and Jews collectively accountable for actions of the Israeli government are all examples of antisemitism. Ms. Head ignores the context and the very real need, sadly, for such a definition to be adopted in Montgomery County. According to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), there were more than 2,700 incidents of hatred directed toward Jews across the United States in 2021. That number included numerous physical assaults. The ADL was founded in 1913 by the B’nai B’rith in response to antisemitism at that time, here in the United States, and continues to fight antisemitism globally.

Here at home in Montgomery County our synagogues, Jewish day schools and other Jewish institutions must be guarded by police or private security. As parents we wonder if our Jewish children, who are at risk because they are Jews, will come home from Jewish day school or weekly religious school. The need to hire security to guard our institutions is unique to the Jewish community in the county. In addition, hateful flyers have been distributed in the county this year, and our children have been subjected to numerous antisemitic incidents within Montgomery County public schools, including swastikas drawn on desks.

Clearly antisemitism is here, and it is here now. Adopting the IHRA definition is the first step. The County Council must also take concrete actions against antisemitism. 

This letter was submitted by the following members of the Montgomery County Jewish Parents Coalition: Melissa Amster, Paula Bienenfeld, Hilla Laver Flohr, Nicole Kashtan, Peter Krucoff, Sharon Samuels, Jaime Selvin, Natalie Selvin, Ariana Tipograph, Joseph Tipograph, Tessa Victoria and Allison Winoker.

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