Photo Credit: Screenshot from JewTube video
William Daroff

William Daroff, who was appointed last summer as CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, on Sunday warned that the coronavirus pandemic is giving rise of the “old anti-Semitism.”

Daroff was the keynote speaker at ORT’s 140th anniversary celebration (virtual, of course), with more than 300 people from dozens of countries including the United States, Israel, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Russia, South Africa and across Europe following his speech online.


“Amidst the current crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, an increasingly urgent threat has shown itself in the global resurgence of anti-Semitism, which is also rightfully called ‘Jew hatred,’” Daroff said. He pointed to recent warning signs about the resurgence of anti-Semitism in America, such as the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018, the Chabad of Poway synagogue shooting in April 2019, and the open attacks on Haredi Jews in Brooklyn in the winter of 2019, which culminated in the machete attack in Monsey, NY last Chanukah.

“For years, American Jews have focused on fighting new anti-Semitism, which has used the anti Zionism as a cover for hatred targeted to Jews. We have poured funds into fighting this threat on campuses and over the internet, while working with local, state and federal legislatures to shore up support against the delegitimization of Israel. During that time, old anti-Semitism remained semi-dormant, and we had hoped it would fade into the past,” Daroff said. “Unfortunately, the events in Pittsburgh and Poway, Brooklyn and Monsey, have shaken any faith that the old stereotypes had vanished. In COVID-19, we find a striking re-emergence of classic anti-Semitic tropes about Jews in plague drawn directly from the 1300s. What was old is new again.”

President and Mrs. Trump visit the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Oct. 30, 2018. / Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks

Daroff cited the Anti-Defamation League statistics on anti-Semitism which had been released on April 21, which showed that two-thirds of US Jews are feeling less safe today than they did 10 years ago, as more than half of them have experienced or witnessed an anti-Semitic incident, and 20% have been directly targeted by anti-Semitic verbal attacks.

“Anti-Semitism – Jew hatred – is an international epidemic calling into question the post-Holocaust paradigm never again. As a people, we cannot accept this new status quo. We must learn from these tragedies and work to prevent further incidents. In order to fight it, we need an international response,” Daroff said.

He then came so close to charting the only viable solution to America’s wave of anti-Semitism – moving to that lovely promised land along the Mediterranean shore. See how he almost got there, when he articulated: “I believe to survive as Jews, we must be optimists. If we were not optimists, we never would have left Sinai. If we’re not optimists, we never would’ve left the shtetl. If we’re not optimists, indeed, here in the United States, we never would have left the lower east side of New York.”

The next line there should have been: “If we weren’t optimists, we never would have picked up our suitcases and made Aliyah…”

Alas, he didn’t come to the only rational conclusion of the graph he himself had drawn. Instead, naturally, the solution the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations offered was more pre-1939-style hope than post-1948-style substance: “I encourage you to join me in finding ways to craft a better future, to build a stronger community and to do all that we can to ensure that the Jewish future is strong and vibrant.”

Oh, you magnificent fool, do you not hear the drum beat of history? What will it take to rattle you out of your delusions?

Unfortunately, you and I know the answer to this one.