By Jacob Henry, New York Jewish Week via JTA
NEW YORK — Last month, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Jewish Democrat, proclaimed April 29 “End Jew Hatred Day,” citing “an urgent need to act against anti-Semitism in Colorado and across the country.”
Similar proclamations came from New York Rep. Mike Lawler, a Republican, and dozens of other elected officials nationwide.
But in the New York City Council, an identical effort proved controversial. While the overwhelmingly Democratic council approved April 29 as End Jew Hatred Day annually, six council members either abstained from or voted against what organizers had intended to be a unanimous decision.
The End Jew Hatred Movement is increasingly making its voice known nationally — through rallies, petitions, a relentless press campaign and now in the halls of government.
One measure that demonstrates the initiative’s growth is the number of April 29 proclamations. Last year, there were a handful. This year, according to End Jew Hatred, there were 30.
The movement also provided the spark for the unexpected opposition in the New York City Council.
Lawmakers who did not support the proclamation said they demurred because the End Jew Hatred Movement, while run by people who say they “set aside politics and ideology,” has been associated with right-wing Jewish activists.
End Jew Hatred doesn’t publicize much about its structure or funding. It is not a registered nonprofit organization and would not tell the Jewish Week its annual budget or how it receives donations.
Its backers call it an unapologetic voice that’s fighting a growing problem, anti-Semitism, while its critics say it is an attempt to inject hawkish rhetoric into a national effort to combat anti-Jewish persecution.
Here’s what we know about End Jew Hatred.
A movement founded in the politics of 2020
Founded in New York City near the beginning of the pandemic, End Jew Hatred first drew local attention in October, 2020, when it organized a rally in front of the New York Public Library protesting the way its activists said New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were unfairly targeting Orthodox New Yorkers with public health restrictions.
It was claimed that policies limiting group prayer and other religious ceremonies were selectively enforced against their communities.
“Never in my life did I think I would see this type of blatant Jew-hatred from our public officials,” Brooke Goldstein, who founded End Jew Hatred, said at the rally, which drew dozens of protesters.
“Singling out New York Jews for blame in the coronavirus spread is unconscionable and discriminatory.”
While the movement’s first significant action concerned the pandemic, a spokesman for End Jew Hatred said it was inspired by another seismic event that took place in 2020: the racial justice protests and the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“How can we replicate this for the Jewish people?” said Gerard Filitti, senior counsel for the organization Goldstein directs, the Lawfare Project, describing End Jew Hatred’s genesis.
“We saw anti-Semitism shoot up during the pandemic. So it was kind of the right time to launch this idea.”
A movement with a global scope
It has continued holding rallies, protesting the UN Relief and Works Agency, which aids Palestinian refugees, for “promoting Jew hatred”; speaking out against anti-Semitism in Berlin, Toronto and other cities around the globe; and, earlier this year, opposing a reported plea bargain for the men who assaulted Joseph Borgen while he was en route to a pro-Israel rally in May, 2021.
It was a signatory on a letter to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg protesting the plea deal, and members of the movement showed up to the alleged attackers’ court hearing.
In a statement to the Jewish Week, a spokesperson for End Jew Hatred said the organization accepts donations from local community members and support from like-minded nonprofit groups.
“Our network of activists spans the globe, from New York City to Los Angeles, from Toronto to Berlin,” he said. “Also, the movement is supported by people from all walks of life who donate both their time and money to make the movement a success. Activists are encouraged to fundraise within their community, and some actions have been supported by organizations that have taken part in them.”
Roots in pro-Israel and right-wing activism
The Lawfare Project, Goldstein’s group, has represented Jewish students who settled a discrimination lawsuit with San Francisco State University, and the following year, represented an Israeli organization that settled a suit with the National Lawyers’ Guild, after the guild declined to place the group’s advertisement in its annual dinner journal.
This year, the group is providing legal aid to a Las Vegas-area Jewish teen who had a swastika drawn onto his back. And it sued the mayor of Barcelona over her decision to sever ties with Tel Aviv.
Goldstein has made appearances on conservative news networks such as Fox News, One America News and Newsmax.
She has said that “there’s no such thing as a Palestinian person,” and on Election Day in 2016, tweeted, “Can I run the anti-anti-islamophobia department in the Trump administration?”
Ronald Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress, was involved with the movement’s effort to establish End Jew Hatred Day in New York City last year.
End Jew Hatred has worked with Dov Hikind, a former Brooklyn Democratic state assemblyman who now runs a group called Americans Against Anti-Semitism.
Hikind told the Jewish Week that his group and End Jew Hatred are “involved in terms of pushing the same agenda.”
Controversy or consensus?
End Jew Hatred has garnered support from establishment Jewish groups. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations recently promoted End Jew Hatred Day on Twitter, posting a graphic with the logo of the movement. The city’s Jewish Community Relations Council also backed the City Council resolution.
“All people, regardless of party affiliation, have a role to play in combating anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, and we should not lose sight of that,” a JCRC spokesperson told the Jewish Week. “From our perspective, every day should be End Jew Hatred Day.”
Lauder has advocated the use of the term “Jew hatred” in place of anti-Semitism in a video published by the World Jewish Congress that has been viewed more than 480,000 times.
“No one is embarrassed anymore when they’re called an anti-Semite,” he said. “Anti-Semitism must be called what it really is: Jew hatred.”
That view is not universally shared among anti-Semitism watchdogs. Holly Huffnagle, the American Jewish Committee’s US director for combating anti-Semitism, said that the term “Jew hatred” is “jarring” and “makes people stop and think.” But she said the term does not capture the way anti-Semitism is often expressed via coded conspiratorial language.
“I hear from a variety of people that they don’t hate Jews, they’re against Jew hatred, they’re not anti-Semitic, but they believe that Jews have too much power [or] they control the media.”
The lead sponsor of the City Council’s End Jew Hatred Day resolution was Queens Republican Inna Vernikov, a former aide to Hikind who has previously spotlighted anti-Semitism allegations at the City University of New York.
Her resolution, which passed overwhelmingly, garnered a mix of 14 co-sponsors, including some prominent Jewish Democrats and all six of the council’s Republicans. Six progressive council members either abstained from or voted against the resolution.
One of the council members who voted no, Brooklyn’s Shahana Hanif, said that she has participated in multiple actions against anti-Semitism but opposed the resolution because she didn’t want to endorse End Jew Hatred as a movement.
City Comptroller Brad Lander said that End Jew Hatred’s activists are “right-wingers who have a track record of working very closely with people who foment hatred.”
Rafael, a member of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, took issue with remarks Vernikov has made about George Soros, whom Vernikov called ”an evil man, who happens to be Jewish.”
End Jew Hatred’s supporters dismissed accusations that their cause is right-wing. In a text message, Vernikov told the Jewish Week that “this resolution has nothing to do with politics or right-wing extremists.” Hikind also echoed that message.
Filliti, the Lawfare counsel, said the aim of the resolution — and End Jew Hatred as a whole — was to send “a unifying message.”
“We’re not looking to make this political,” he said. “We have had so much success with this and we are so happy to see this going forward.”