Jewish Perceptions of Antisemitism

By Gary A. Tobin; Sharon L. Sassler | Go to book overview

Chapter Five
AN INSTITUTIONAL RESPONSE
TO ANTISEMITISM

A well-known fable about the three major national Jewish community relations agencies summarizes the Jewish institutional approach to dealing with antisemitism. A particularly nasty piece of graffiti was found in a public bathroom. Different Jewish community relations agencies were called, and each one rushed over its top specialist. The Anti-Defamation League took fingerprints and, speeding back to their headquarters, compared them with their file of known antisemitic graffiti writers. The American Jewish Committee immediately convened an interethnic, interreligious conference on racist and anti‐ semitic graffiti in bathrooms. And the American Jewish Congress filed a lawsuit against everybody within 20 feet of the bathroom.

While these caricatures obviously do not accurately represent each agency's methods of dealing with anti‐ semitism, they do broadly define basic philosophies. They collectively represent the structured yet varied response of American Jews to antisemitism. Since Jews differ in their views of antisemitism, a set of institutions has developed to represent the wide range of perceptions about antisemitism.

Representatives from the community relations agencies defined their institutional agendas along lines not unlike the exaggerated versions of the above story. For example, the assistant executive director of the American

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