Words Matter

This past Monday, the United States honored the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While many organizations released statements in support of Dr. King’s dream, one organization intertwined antisemitic rhetoric within their statement.

Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, the Stated Clerk of the Assembly of Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) issued a statement, which included the following:

The continued occupation in Palestine/Israel is 21st-century slavery and should be abolished immediately. Given the history of Jewish humble beginnings and persecution, there should be no ambiguity as to the ethical, moral, and dehumanizing marginalization and enslavement of other human beings. The United States of America must be a major influencer of calling this injustice both immoral and intolerable.

I would also hope that the Jewish community in the United States would influence the call to join the U.S. government in ending the immoral enslavement. Dr. King continuously preached a Gospel of justice, so that all people could live in dignity.

We live in a world where atrocities such as slavery and the Holocaust are used to describe recent events all too often. When statements, such as this one by Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, are made, it fuels hatred and extremism. Ultimately, these types of comments must be addressed. Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) released a statement in response to Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II’s comments, which you can read here. The Jewish Council on Public Affairs (JCPA) also released a statement which you can read here.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last time, a person or organization uses their voice to foment antisemitic tropes. On January 12th, Congressman Warren Davidson, who serves Ohio’s 8th District (which includes Hamilton, Fairfield, Middletown, Springfield, Eaton, Greenville, Piqua, and Troy) posted this on his Twitter account – in response to Washington D.C.’s proof of COVID-19 vaccination requirements. The post shows a picture of a Nazi card while stating, “Let’s recall that the Nazis dehumanized Jewish people before segregating them, segregated them before imprisoning them, imprisoned them before enslaving them, and enslaved them before massacring them.”

In addition to the plethora of comments Congressman Davidson received in response to his post, Ohio Jewish Communities (OJC) wrote a letter on behalf of the Jewish community, and it was addressed by several national media sources such as JTA. He then issued an apology, however the damage is done.

These two examples are indicative of the work that needs to continue in order to dismantle antisemitism and raise awareness about the dangers of rhetoric and how it contributes to extremist behavior. As more news comes out about the situation that happened this past weekend in Colleyville, Texas, we realize that the suspect believed many of the falsehoods that are perpetuated regarding the Jewish community.

Thankfully we have great national and regional partners in JFNA, OJC, the Secure Community Network, the ADL, and many others locally such as our JCRC, synagogues/temples, and interfaith groups who continue to work extensively for the safety and security of all Jews and all the faith communities.




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