Tuesday marked 77 years since the tragic night in Germany known as Kristallnacht or night of the broken glass. On November 10, 1938, Hitler’s stormtroopers launched a coordinated attack on the Jewish community in Germany. Amazingly, some 37 years to the day (November 10, 1975), the Jewish people had to defend themselves again – this time at the United Nations.
Yes, forty years ago, the UN General Assembly passed infamous Resolution 3379 by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions) stating that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” The vote took place one year after the PLO was granted “observer status” at the UN. The resolution was passed with the support of the Soviet bloc and other Soviet-aligned nations, in addition to the Arab and Islamic majority countries.
Israel’s then President, Chaim Herzog, and then US Ambassador to the UN, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, each spoke out against the resolution prior to the vote. (Sadly, the resolution was not repealed until 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union.)
President Herzog stated, “It is sobering to consider to what level this body has been dragged down if we are obliged today to contemplate an attack on Zionism… The vote of each delegation will record in history its country’s stand on anti-Semitic racism and anti-Judaism. We, the Jewish people, will not forget… For us, this resolution is based on hatred, falsehood, and arrogance, is devoid of any moral or legal value.”
Ambassador Moynihan said, “The proposition to be sanctioned by a resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations is that ‘Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.’ Now this is a lie... The United States of America declares that it does not acknowledge, it will not abide by it, it will never acquiesce in this infamous act.”
We watch today as the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement continues its efforts to delegitimize the State of Israel. President Herzog’s closing statements in 1975 are as true today as they were then, “Zionism is our attempt to build a society, imperfect though it may be, in which the visions of the prophets of Israel will be realized. I know that we have problems. I know that many disagree with our government’s policies. Many in Israel, too, disagree from time to time with the government’s policies… and are free to do so because Zionism has created the first and only democratic state in a part of the world that never really knew democracy and freedom of speech.”
This past week, Michael Jeser, Director of Financial Resource Development, and I had the pleasure of representing our Federation at the annual Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) General Assembly (GA). This annual international conference includes representatives from every Jewish Federation in North America, as well as leadership from other Jewish organizations around the world, who come together to discuss issues of opportunity and concern.
The GA, in my mind, is three conferences in one. You have the large plenary sessions with major name speakers, smaller breakout sessions on a variety of topics, and the informal, often spontaneous meetings that take place in the hallways. For many, that networking is the key to the conference.
I met with partners from the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (PJ Library and Create a Jewish Legacy), Israel Trauma Coalition (providing resiliency support in Israel), Interfaithfamily.com (outreach and resource network for interfaith families), and federation colleagues from Seattle and Vancouver (discussing ways to collaborate).
We heard from David Gregory (yes, he’s Jewish!), former moderator on Meet the Press, who, amazingly was there despite his father passing away two days prior and his son’s bar mitzvah taking place this Shabbat. He spoke about l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation), including the opportunity to pass on to his son the siddur (prayer book) his father gave to him at his bar mitzvah some 32 years earlier. Talk about added meaning.
Other speakers included Emmy Award winning actress Debra Messing from TV’s Will & Grace, who shared her story of being the only Jew in rural Rhode Island whose parents taught her the ideals of Jewish commitment and social activism. We heard a panel discussion that included Ambassador Dennis Ross talking about the current realities of the Middle East. Ambassador Danny Danon, Israel’s Representative to the United Nations, enumerated the challenges at the UN for Israel. Did you know last year there were twenty UN resolutions criticizing Israel for human rights violations while only three in total for all other nations combined, including Syria? Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu closed the conference by reinforcing “the unshakable alliance between Israel and America – an alliance that will only get stronger.”
As an aside, the following large Jewish conferences totaling over 12,000 people will have all been held within a two-week period: Union of Reform Judaism, International Conference of Chabad-Lubavitch Shluchim, JFNA GA, and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. How about if they all shared one mega-conference to listen, learn, and engage with one another since we all have a common mission of strengthening Jewish life?
Finally, this past week we observed Veterans Day. Thank you to all past and current veterans for your service to our country. America is truly the home of the free – because of the brave.
Shabbat shalom and I look forward to seeing 549 of you tomorrow night at our SOLD OUT Federation Gala with William Shatner!
PS – Interesting factoid, Israel was just added to the UN Commission on Space Exploration. Did you know that Israel is one of only eight countries in the world able to build, launch, and monitor satellites in space?