The Montgomery County Council will vote on a resolution in September that adopts an international definition of antisemitism. Council Member Andrew Friedson, who is sponsoring the resolution, says he is concerned about the rising number of hateful acts against Jews in the community.
The resolution calls for the county to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, which 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.”
The resolution condemns all forms of antisemitism and affirms the county’s commitment to inclusivity and diversity. The council was scheduled to vote Tuesday on the antisemitism resolution, but the vote has been moved to after the council’s August recess, which runs from Aug. 1 to Sept. 9.
The Montgomery County Police Department reported that in 2021, 29 out of the 34 reported bias incidents that were religious based were classified as antisemitic, despite the fact that Jews make up 10% of the county’s population.
Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League conducted an audit and found that there were more than 2,700 incidents of antisemitism in the United States last year that resulted in either assault, vandalism or harassment that were reported to the ADL – the highest number since the organization began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
Friedson said those statistics are alarming.
“We’ve had flyers in Chevy Chase as part of a national white supremacist group that directly threatened Jews,” he said. “There’s just a number of incidents that have happened in our county, in our community that are part of the rising number of incidents in the country and globally.”
Other incidents have included flyers discovered in Silver Spring this summer bearing a drawing of a swastika, and an incident at a kosher Chinese restaurant in Kemp Mill last year in which a customer compared the county’s mask mandate to the Holocaust.
“There’s an alarming rise in antisemitism in our community, and throughout the country,” Friedson said.
Friedson added that the council has tried to help synagogues and other houses of worship by approving $1.5 million in security grant funding the last two fiscal years. That money can be used to help churches, synagogues, mosques or other ethnic centers, such as Asian American centers, noting that the Asian American community faced ongoing harassment and racism last year.
The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has expressed opposition to the council’s resolution on antisemitism, out of concern that it places a chilling effect on political speech when it comes to criticism of Israel’s government. The council’s resolution does not mention Israel, however CAIR Maryland director Zainab Chaudry said in a statement that the resolution is too broad.
“IHRA’s definition is controversial and ambiguous in several respects and leaves too much room for misinterpretation and abuse of free speech rights,” Chaudry said in the statement.
Dan Schere can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org