Jewish Council on Urban Affairs opposes government use of IHRA definition of antisemitism

February 2021 — For 57 years, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) has worked to advance racial and economic justice across Chicago and Illinois. As a Jewish organization dedicated to social justice, we are deeply committed to the fight against antisemitism. We believe that adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism at the city or state level is not an effective strategy to fight antisemitism as it exists today.

JCUA joins Jewish organizations such as the Union for Reform Judaism and Bend the Arc in expressing concern that politicizing the definition of antisemitism could be used to criminalize free speech rather than protect Jewish safety. Legal tools to prosecute hate crimes against Jewish people already exist. In our work on economic, racial, and immigration justice throughout Chicago, we have learned that additional criminalization does not make our communities safer.

Furthermore, we believe that a public debate about the legal definition of antisemitism will be unhelpful for dealing with the greatest threats our Jewish community faces in this moment, from the violent insurrectionists who stormed the capital with Nazi imagery to antisemitic conspiracy theories spread by leaders like U.S. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Green and Mary Miller.

Antisemitism and white nationalism are rising in this country. We know the people threatening Jewish safety are the same people threatening the safety of Black people, immigrants, Muslims, and other marginalized communities, and we must be united against all forms of hatred.

For nearly six decades we have demonstrated our commitment to sustaining deep relationships with our non-Jewish partners through coalition work to make our democracy more inclusive and equitable. Deep relationships allow us to call in our partners when antisemitism emerges in our movements, as we hold each other accountable to the work of dismantling systems of oppression and moving toward safety for all. The antisemitism training programs we offer for our members and partners aim to support this work.

JCUA will continue to work in partnership with the greater Chicago Jewish community, our congregation partners, our coalition partners, and our members to fight antisemitism in all its forms. By joining together, we keep each other safe.