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Jewish Journal: Fighting Jew Hatred with Jewish Civil Rights

Updated: Nov 27, 2022

Cover Story: Fighting Jew Hatred with Jewish Civil Rights - Brooke Goldstein is fighting Jew hatred with a civil rights movement that seeks justice for Jews.

A parent-teacher meeting occurred at an undisclosed location in the last year involving an anti-Israel BDS resolution. Most Jewish and pro-Israel groups would advise people to argue point-by-point against the resolution. But a parent at the meeting took a different approach: She said that she felt that her Jewish identity was being attacked by the mere proposal of the resolution and thus felt victimized.

The room suddenly became silent. You could hear a pin drop. The resolution was subsequently tabled and has never seen the light of day since.

Brooke Goldstein
Brooke Goldstein

This is the approach promoted by the grassroots civil rights movement End Jew Hatred (EJH) to fight against antisemitism, of which Brooke Goldstein is a founder. As Goldstein explained to the Journal, fighting Jew hatred is “a civil rights issue which should be combatted through a civil rights movement for Jews” in the same tradition as other great justice movements.

In the year-and-a-half that EJH has existed, the organization has partnered with 59 different organizations and has chapters and activists in 20 cities across nine countries. They have also garnered national media attention in The New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News and others and have reached hundreds of thousands of people on social media. EJH’s work is making an impact — and the Jewish community is noticing.

Goldstein has long been a warrior for civil rights, even before EJH. Born in Toronto, the New York-based lawyer first made a name for herself through her 2006 film “The Making of a Martyr,” which she co-directed with Alistair Leyland, documenting how Palestinian terror groups exploit child suicide bombers. The film features firsthand interviews with members of these terror groups as well as the families of suicide bombers. Goldstein told the Journal’s Karen Lehrman Bloch in December 2019 that filming “Martyr” made her realize the truly complex nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “When I spent time with 6-year-old Muslim children who were repeating to me terrorist slogans like ‘We have nowhere to go but up [blow up],’ I realized there’s a complexity to the situation, and I became extraordinarily empathetic to these innocent children,” she told Bloch. “I decided to dedicate my life to exposing human rights violations, and not just against these children. These children, like children anywhere in the world, deserve their right to life. How tragic is it that they are being continually abused and, frankly, murdered for political gains?”

More recently, during a September 2022 episode of Newsweek’s “The Debate” podcast regarding “Martyr,” Goldstein said: “I actually had a fatwa against me and my camera crew when we filmed our movie, ‘The Making of A Martyr.’ For that movie, I risked my life to expose the recruitment of innocent Muslim children towards violence to become suicide and homicide bombers and child soldiers. And we were threatened as well. And not only that, we were called Islamophobic by Western media.” She added: “If risking your life to raise awareness about crimes against Muslim children is anti-Muslim, what then is pro-Muslim? So hypocrisy abounds, and obviously the threats of violence create a situation which really chills open and free dialogue about theologically motivated terrorism.”

Following “Martyr,” Goldstein went on to establish The Lawfare Project in 2010, an organization that combats antisemitism through legal means. Lawfare’s notable accomplishments, as previously documented by Bloch, include a lawsuit against San Francisco State University (SFSU) that resulted in a March 2019 settlement in which the California State University system was forced to recognize that Zionism is a crucial component to a Jewish student’s identity. Lawfare also launched successful lawsuits against resolutions in Spain boycotting Israel as well as against Kuwait Airways Corp. for refusing to fly to Israelis. Lawfare, as well as EJH, were also key figures in getting Zoom to deplatform former Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine member Leila Khaled from speaking at a virtual SFSU event; more recently, Lawfare is representing a New York Jewish activist who was assaulted during a pro-Palestinian event. The alleged assailant is currently facing federal hate crime charges.

Which brings us to EJH, Goldstein’s most recent endeavor. Founded in September 2020, EJH describes itself as a movement that “seeks to empower and liberate Jews from centuries of persecution and discrimination. We demand a world in which Jew hatred is acknowledged to be detestable and unacceptable, just as hatred or violence against any other group: Blacks, LGBTQ+ or women. We are a nonpartisan civil rights movement focused solely on justice for the Jewish people.”

The movement was launched following a study Goldstein commissioned on the strategies, tactics, language, organization and funding of minority rights movements such as Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and Stop Asian Hate.

Goldstein wondered whether the Jewish community, the oldest most persecuted minority community in history, could use the same methodologies for its benefit. The answer seems to be a resounding yes.

“End Jew Hatred is a nonpartisan, Jewish civil rights movement focused on raising awareness and ensuring consequences for systemic Jew hatred through grassroots organization and direct actions,” Goldstein told the Journal. “We are uniting and empowering local communities to rise up against anti-Jewish bigotry, and backing them with free legal, strategic and financial support. And we don’t require anyone to take a position on Israel. If you believe in ending Jew hatred in your lifetime, then you are a part of the movement.”

“It’s the one hatred in the age of minority rights that’s still [socially] acceptable,” Goldstein told the Journal. “Why is that? Why hasn’t the Jewish community as a minority community become on par with other minority rights movements? [Because] we’ve never asserted ourselves as a minority community [deserving] of equal protection. We’re always talking about Israel.”

The issue with keeping the focus on the Jewish state is that “it gives an affirmative defense to a racist,” says Goldstein, pointing out that it’s clearly racist to hold a Chinese student responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic or force a Muslim student to answer for the Iranian regime’s march toward nuclear weaponry. And yet, it’s acceptable on social media for Jews to be held accountable for the actions of the Israeli government. “That’s racism 101,” Goldstein said. “But we have responded to this by [saying], ‘Ok let’s debate Israel then!’ That gives them an affirmative defense.”

In Goldstein’s view, the response to those demanding that Jews answer for the Israeli government’s actions toward the Palestinians should be: “You are giving me a political litmus test because I’m Jewish, and that’s bigotry.”

“That’s not to say that Israel isn’t important,” Goldstein continued. “Zionism is an integral part of my cultural, ethnic and religious identity. But you have no right whatsoever to define my Zionism for me. Do you go and tell a Black person what it’s like to be Black or how they should feel because they’re Black? And you have no right to discriminate against me because of my religious or cultural beliefs.”

When EJH was first launched, they created “not safe spaces, but brave spaces” and invited Jewish students from various campuses to talk to them about what it was like to be Jewish on campus. “We didn’t come to them and train them on how to respond and all that kind of stuff, we just gave them a space to talk and we listened,” Goldstein said. “Every single one of those students walked out an empowered activist. I didn’t have to train them. All I had to do was give them a space to feel good, gain empathy and share stories about how they have been targeted because of their identity.”

Goldstein recalled how Ilan Sinelnikov, who heads Students Supporting Israel (SSI), evolved his organization’s strategy from being on defense to going on offense by starting Palestinian Apartheid Week on college campuses (a response to Israel Apartheid Week often put on by Students for Justice in Palestine) and advancing resolutions “demanding that the school recognize that Jews are indigenous to Judea or demanding the school recognize that the Jewish community is a minority community and subjected to systemic racism.”

Sinelnikov said that when SSI started conducing such activities, the anti-Israel groups on campus were so busy responding to SSI that the amount of anti-Israel activity on campus declined. “All it took was this slight change of strategy: instead of responding to the accusations, go on the offense,” he said. “So we started implementing it.”

Ultimately, independent of Israel, Goldstein believes that Jewish students “have a responsibility and a moral obligation to stand up for themselves and to defend their own identity and their own culture.”

One of EJH’s first protests was conducted at The Grove in Los Angeles during Labor Day weekend in September 2020. A month earlier, Rose Ritch made headlines by publicly resigning from her position as USC’s student government vice president after facing harassment on social media over her Zionist identity. The protest, which featured at least 100 people during the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, centered on USC’s inadequate response to the Ritch incident and demanded that the university better protect Jewish students. They specifically chose The Grove because then-USC Board of Trustees chairman Rick Caruso, who resigned from that position earlier this year to launch his Los Angeles mayoral bid, founded The Grove. Since then, USC has announced a series of measures to address antisemitism. Goldstein said that these measures were adopted after EJH threatened to protest in front of USC President Carol Folt’s home.

EJH, in partnership with Club Z, also made noise when they read Holocaust denial tweets out loud in a megaphone in front of then-Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s California home in January 2021. EJH found it hypocritical that Twitter would take down COVID-19 denial but not Holocaust denial. Their protest made “national news,” Goldstein said, including coverage on Fox News. She called it a “can of paint moment,” referencing how PETA became famous after a couple of activists took a can of red paint and threw it at people wearing fur.

In response to the worsening trend of Jews being targeted with antisemitic attacks in Germany — which included a spate of antisemitic incidents in Berlin in May 2021, such as the burning of Israeli flags and flying Hamas flags — the Berlin chapter of EJH organized a protest that following July titled “Jewish Life Is Not Provocation.” At the rally, they blew shofars and called for the German government to crack down on antisemitic protests and allocate more money toward combating antisemitism throughout the country. “When the Berlin chapter did their thing, all of the chapters promoted it on their socials, some had solidarity rallies together with the Berlin community, so it amplified their power,” Goldstein said.

The result: various German officials, including members of the Social Democratic Party, agreed to EJH’s demands and antisemitism was one of the issues discussed during the September 2021 elections.

EJH was able to help achieve a similar result in France after the man who murdered Sarah Halimi, 65, in 2017 was let off the hook after the French High Court in April 2021 deemed he was unfit to stand trial because he was on marijuana at the time of the murder. After EJH and others held protests in response to the ruling calling for justice for Halimi, French President Emmanuel Macron publicly supported French law to be changed to prevent similar court rulings from occurring in the future.

More recently, people wearing EJH shirts protested in August in front of New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, where Roger Waters, the former Pink Floyd bassist notorious for his anti-Israel activism, was performing.

The Times of Israel (TOI) quoted EJH protesters saying that “we are here because Roger Waters spews hatred and lies” and “He promotes a false narrative, and it’s very dangerous when someone with such a big reach shares a false narrative of hate,” though the TOI writer did not agree with the EJH protester’s assertions that Waters is an antisemite. But the EJH protesters’ actions show the grassroots nature of the organization, especially since there was a groundswell for such protests following EJH protests in front of a Waters concert in Atlanta a week prior. EJH also protested Waters’ September 27 concert at arena in Los Angeles.

“I’m just providing resources and a strategy team,” Goldstein told the Journal. “It’s the grassroots chapters, they’re the ones determining what the agenda is in their local communities.”

EJH is also currently running “an influencer network” as part of the movement’s efforts, which includes voices such as famed Israeli actor Aki Avni, Emmy-award winning actor and producer Yuval David, New York City Councilwoman Inna Vernikov, Canadian MP Melissa Lantsman, Netflix TV star Sheila Nazarian, and social media influencers like Emily Schroeder, Emily Austin, and Kassy Dillon. Goldstein came up with the idea after she saw Muslim-American model Gigi Hadid and Roger Waters promoting each other’s anti-Jewish activism. So Goldstein thought, “Why don’t we just create a free service for the Jewish community of [influencers]?” “We have on a WhatsApp chat some of the biggest influencers in the Jewish community, we have a combined following of over 15 million,” Goldstein said, “and this is just in the last year that we’ve been building this and every week we’re adding someone else … they agree that when we post something, we like and retweet each other’s stuff.”

End Jew Hatred signs in New York

April 29 is now End Jew Hatred Day, and it started with EJH. The Holocaust Museum and Center for Education and Tolerance in New York contacted Goldstein about being a part of EJH and suggested that April 29 should be End Jew Hatred Day, as it was the day after Yom HaShoah in 2022. “They ended up getting a proclamation from a New York State Assemblyman, and then all of a sudden, two, three, four, five more, six more, seven more resolutions are passed all over the country,” Goldstein said. “All of these lawmakers and elected officials are now saying, ‘Now I want to pass April 29 as End Jew Hatred Day!’ because it gives them a feel-good way to support the Jewish community as a minority community using progressive and liberal terminology that has nothing to do with Israel.”

“It is remarkable that this result was made possible by a grassroots movement of Jews and non-Jews working together across different organizations, coordinating their efforts to make a difference on the ground.”

– World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder

Jewish groups have praised Goldstein’s work. “It is remarkable that this result was made possible by a grassroots movement of Jews and non-Jews working together across different organizations, coordinating their efforts to make a difference on the ground,” World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said in an email to the Journal. “At a time when antisemitism is on the rise throughout the world, movements such as #endjewhatred are of critical importance. The World Jewish Congress supports the mission and goals of the End Jew Hatred movement and looks forward to seeing its next initiatives in the fight against the enemies of Israel and the Jewish people. When Jews stand together, we can secure our future.”

Masha Merkulova, Executive Director Club Z, another partner of EJH, said in a statement to the Journal, “Brooke is a renaissance woman of our time when it comes to justice. She relentlessly works to correct the biased and inaccurate portrayal of Israel by the media and so-called social justice groups by calmly and breathtakingly making a case for truth.”

Merkulova added: “Our youth crave leaders like Brooke because she is, in every true sense of the word, a trailblazer. Courageously and boldly going against the grain is what Jews are supposed to do.”

“The grassroots, the street, gets it,” Goldstein said. “The people who still don’t get it are the people sitting in their ivory towers with their big budgets who feel threatened and think they’re solving antisemitism by putting out mailers. They’re afraid of getting out on the street, they’re afraid of protests and showing up at protests and imposing consequences for Jew haters.”

EJH is growing; their budget has tripled in the year and a half of their existence, and they have recently hired three grassroots organizers, a campus coordinator and three campus fellows. “All I’m doing is giving a recipe for success and people are doing it on their own,” Goldstein said.

Goldstein doesn’t view EJH as an organization as much as a movement for empowering activists to mobilize against Jew hatred.

“The thirst for this stuff is so great that there’s not a day that goes by where we’re not contacted and people want to start a chapter and they want to do something to advocate for themselves,” Goldstein told the Journal, adding: “It shows there’s a need.”

A succinct summary of Goldstein’s movement would be “Justice for Jews.” This assertive spirit came through in the group’s New Year message:

“We look forward to the New Year 5783 with optimism and hope. We embrace the future with the sure and certain knowledge that together, we will achieve great things. We are proud Jews, and allies, empowered with thousands of years of faith, custom, and tradition. Our history is one of perseverance and endurance — but more importantly, it is one of triumph over adversity.

“Remember this when you hear the first blast of the shofar on Rosh Hashanah. Remember the strength of those who came before us, in whose footsteps we walk. Remember that we are not now, nor have we ever been, Jews with trembling knees. Remember that no matter what we face, we face it together — and together, we can overcome anything.

“Together, we can #EndJewHatred in our lifetime and build a future that is even brighter than we dare to dream.”

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