Ending Hate Down Under

Australian Jews enlist CEOs in battle against antisemitism and to #endhate

Leader of a new initiative says the largely grassroots effort is aimed at starting discussions in workplaces about antisemitism and racism

After the Oct. 7 attacks, as antisemitism spiked in Australia, a small team of Australian-Jewish professionals cobbled together a media campaign to galvanize support for Jewish community members, particularly in workplaces, Marc Schwartz, one of the initiative’s leaders, told eJewishPhilanthropy

It launched on Nov. 27, with 600 signatures, and, as of today, had reached upwards of 16,000 signatures from CEOs and other high-level corporate leaders from a wide array of industries and professions. Through a coordinated media blitz across legacy news platforms and social media sites, the message — “We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia and any form of racism in our workplaces” —  has now reached more than 8 million people across Australia, Schwartz said.

“Jews around the world are inherently struck and distracted and affected in many ways about what’s happening on the other side of the world,” Schwartz said. “And there’s a lack of understanding globally that because you are Jewish, you are affected by what’s happening in Israel.” 

Making the corporate community aware of that, and “getting CEOs who employ hundreds of thousands of people to take a stand and say we’ve got your back,” is the goal, he added.

There are five people, including Schwartz, who make up the core organizing steering committee, with  another two working on marketing, data and content. There are also approximately 80 volunteers in a WhatsApp group who collect signatures, and many are using the hashtag #endhate. 

It is notable, he added, that most of the people who are involved with planning the initiative or having the pledge signed are those who are not actively involved in the Jewish community as a whole. Schwartz himself, for example, while part of a federation philanthropy program for young couples, doesn’t work for a Jewish communal organization: He’s the founder of Blackfox Property, a financial services company.

Before Oct. 7, Australian Jews, especially those who were involved in the Jewish community, were aware of the rise of antisemitism, and of Jewish communal projects that were attempting to stop it. But, Schwartz said, “it was a very small group of people that were doing very random things all over the place.” Since Oct. 7, he said, “as never before in my life, there is a genuine fear of local antisemitism getting out of control.”

Schwartz rattled off a few examples from his own experience: a planned motorbike convoy of pro-Palestinian activists that was to run through his Jewish neighborhood in Sydney; a fight over Israel and Palestine breaking out on his street; and Shabbat news of someone with a gun in the area, with warnings to Jews to stay inside.

Perhaps the most prominent example of antisemitism in Australia occurred on Oct. 9 when a group of demonstrators chanted “Gas the Jews,” among other things, outside the Sydney Opera House.

“It was obvious that antisemitism globally was bad before Oct. 7, and then post-Oct. 7, just got a whole lot worse,” Schwartz said. “We were trying to think of ways in which we could help and assist. One of the things which was very disheartening, was the lack of understanding and the lack of support in the workplace — we thought that if we could address the lack of understanding and support in your workplace and essentially make Jewish employees feel safe, and feel supported at work, that would go a long way.”

The statement (full statement available at saynotoantisemitism.org) highlights the fact that Australian society “celebrates acceptance, cultural diversity and the values of a modern tolerant democracy,” but noted that since Oct. 7, there has been a 482% rise in antisemitic incidents in Australia. 

The pledge states that “racism in all its forms is deplorable and abhorrent” and would not be tolerated in workplace conduct. 

“All Australians are entitled to be treated with respect, free from offensive, hostile and intimidating behaviour,” the pledge reads. “We stand against antisemitism, Islamophobia and any form of racism in our workplaces, hiring practices and business dealings. Together, we are united in our support of an Australia where all citizens are treated with respect, inclusivity and dignity.”

At various points in developing the document, the initiative’s creators were asked to reassess who their target audience was, with some believing it should be aimed at the government and others at the everyday citizen, but ultimately, “we came back to where we started [with executive leadership],” Schwartz said. 

The point of the initiative isn’t putting a letter on a CEO’s desk for a signature, he added, but starting a conversation about antisemitism with major companies across Australia.

“There are people around Australia, employees behind the desks in the factories or in the workforce, who are scared to be Jewish and scared to maybe wear a yarmulke, they’re scared to voice their support for Israel,” Schwartz said. “Jewish employees need to feel safe and supported.”

There has been minimal pushback from the companies whose leaders’ signed the pledge, and in those cases, Schwartz said, “typically those [whose companies pushed back] felt there’s even more of a reason to sign if you’re pushing back against an ‘anti-antisemitic campaign.’”

Now, Schwartz and the team are looking to next steps. With the broader group of volunteers growing to the point that it was “a bit hard to track,” he said, the initiative was split into five channels: expanding the #endhate campaign from corporate into other sectors (higher education, sports, government, etc.); conducting an independent survey of Jewish identity and antisemitism in the workplace (to yield a report with data that further proves the need); creating an ongoing reporting mechanism for antisemitic incidents in the workplace; working on an historical digital archive of antisemitism in media; and producing an antisemitism toolkit /discussion guide for workplaces and communities. Each of these channels is self-organizing and beginning to plan their efforts, Schwartz told eJP, and they’ve got some funding to try to duplicate the efforts in the United States as well as partners.

The widespread reach of the initiative has also inspired Jewish people who might not have previously posted about their Jewish identity to do so in spaces like LinkedIn, considered by many to be a more professional, less personal social space. 

Schwartz spoke of a friend of his who had gone to non-Jewish school growing up, and who reported — inspired by this initiative — on LinkedIn that, as a child, he had been teased and bullied for being Jewish. “It has really given a lot of people an outlet and a voice. And I think that’s been wonderful,” Schwartz said.