NEW YORK — In an impassioned speech, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder on Sunday called for Jews globally to become more activist and wage an unrelenting fight against the alarming scourge of antisemitism worldwide.
“The Jews of the diaspora will stand up to defend ourselves like Israel has always stood up to defend itself,” exclaimed Lauder. “We are not the timid Jews of the 1930s,” he said, referencing European Jewry prior to the Holocaust. “We have a voice and we intend to use that voice.”
Lauder used the arousing address to announce a rededicated mission for his historic World Jewish Congress, vowing to deploy a more direct action approach to combat antisemitism worldwide. He was speaking to repeated applause at the annual Jerusalem Post conference in New York.
“We’ve held conferences,” he noted. “We’ve spoken out. We’ve written op-eds in the major papers. And all of this has had an impact. But, frankly, words haven’t stopped this new wave of hatred against our people. Words alone are not going to change this.”
“We have to change,” he stated.
The Jewish leader pointed to a recent countermarch against a neo-Nazi demonstration in Sofia, Bulgaria where the World Jewish Congress was joined by locals and top politicians to demonstrate against extremism there. In March, Lauder led Bulgaria’s first-ever march of tolerance and unity, drawing over 1500 marchers including the country’s foreign minister and speaker of parliament.
“We showed the neo-Nazis there that they are nothing but a fringe group of anti-Semites, far outnumbered by the many decent people of Bulgaria,” he said.
“That’s how you fight neo-Nazis. You don’t allow them to take control of the streets. You don’t let them to define our story. You get into the streets.”
“If a Jew is attacked in a synagogue, I want to see thousands of people in the streets like we saw in Pittsburgh and Paris after attacks,” he said.
Pointing out that antisemitism is a threat to the entire free world, Lauder called for “people of all faiths to show our unity and strength. This is not just a Jewish issue. We will outnumber them with the good and decent people.”
The World Jewish Congress chief upheld the kipah, or Jewish skullcap, as a symbol of freedom after a German politician controversially warned Jews last month against wearing a kipah in certain places in the country for safety reasons.
“I cannot advise Jews to wear the kippah everywhere all the time in Germany,” stated Felix Klein, Germany’s government commissioner on antisemitism.
Lauder countered, “I want to see everyone wearing a kipah” at protests. The secular Lauder then put on a kipah while onstage.
Beyond taking to the streets, Lauder called for other actions to fight antisemitism with particular focus on targeting anti-Israel activism on U.S. college campuses and the antisemitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement.
“When your alma mater allows the endorsement of BDS, or as I call it B.S., and hires vicious anti-Israel professors or doesn’t allow a pro-Zionist speaker on campus stop sending them money,” he demanded.
Exposing the hypocrisy of BDS advocates, Lauder continued:
There’s not another country in the world that is singled out for this treatment on college campuses. The oh-so-concerned student activists express no such reservations about a country which bans dissent and is corralling Muslims into camps. No boycotts or divestments or sanctions are being urged against Iran, which hangs homosexuals from cranes in the public square.
Only Israel, a democracy — an imperfect one, but one in which Arabs sit on courts and in the parliament — Is singled out and shamed. These double standards are anti-Semitic and they’re dangerous. Call it what it is – again it’s B.S. But be vocal about it.
This would never be tolerated if it were anti-Muslim, anti-black, anti-women or anti-gay. So why is everyone quiet when colleges and universities ignore this hatred of Jews? This ends now.
Turning to domestic concerns, Lauder expressed alarm at trends showing a massive decline in support for Israel among Democrats.
“Most of the presidential candidates in the Democratic Party have distanced themselves from Israel because they see the base of the party moving away from the Jewish state,” he warned.
The World Jewish Congress represents Jewish communities and organizations in 100 countries. As its president, Lauder routinely traverses the globe to meet with leaders to advocate for the safety of worldwide Jewry. The organization was founded in 1936 with the goal of ensuring the survival of the Jewish people and it has since played a pivotal role on combatting antisemitism worldwide.