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Bellevue Adopts a New Definition for Anti - Semitism

10/04/2022 04:04:30 PM


Rabbi Molly

When I was working in the Bay Area, one of my most surprising days came when I received a phone call from the local middle school principal. There had been some anti-semitic incidents at the school, both verbal comments and graffiti found on school property. A group of about eight kids who were involved were caught and their punishment was to spend a day with me (I still laugh that I’m a form of punishment).


In response to the increase of anti-semitism, we gathered all of our Jewish middle school students at the Temple for a conversation with the clergy. I was shocked that not only did the students report experiencing anti-semitism, but that it happened so often that these incidents felt like a regular expectation that came with the territory of going to school.


This was before Tree of Life, Poway, and Colleyville. 


I remember one and only one incident from when I was a teenager growing up in Redmond. It was a dumb anti-semitic joke made by a classmate. I actually didn’t even understand the joke at the time, because it was based on a Jewish stereotype I had never heard of before. I figured that like all things, surely we must be on a steady upward trajectory towards progress and tolerance, and that anti-semitism was mostly a thing of the past. I’ll add that to the list of things I was definitely wrong about! 


Now we know that anti-semitism is certainly still here, it is pervasive, and it has led to some horrible atrocities, both in our distant and recent past. Earlier this very year, anti-semitic graffiti was found near the Jewish Family Service building in Seattle. 


We cannot ignore anti-semitism in any form. Some types of anti-semitism are blatant, obvious, and easy to define. Others are not, but they are still dangerous. 


This past Monday, the city of Bellevue formally adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Anti-Semitism in the U.S. We are the first city in the Pacific Northwest to join 52 other cities around the country in adopting this definition. While we wish we didn’t need this definition, we can certainly celebrate that Bellevue is at the forefront of addressing the ongoing issue. This definition does not direct laws around addressing anti-semitism, but it aims to provide education and guidance as anti-semitism evolves and increases in our country. 


We are lucky to call Bellevue our synagogue’s home. The city’s elected officials and police force take their work seriously and we are the beneficiaries of that dedication. Rabbi Sydney and I both serve on the Bellevue Police Department’s “Interfaith Advisory Committee,” giving us the opportunity to develop deeper relationships with our neighbors and offer insight into the concerns of our Jewish community. The work of a public official can be thankless, so please join me in thanking the city of Bellevue for taking this important step!

Tue, March 21 2023 28 Adar 5783