In the Knesset, U.S. Jewish leaders decry rising antisemitism, hail Israel ties 

Hillel International CEO tells Israeli parliamentarians that there have been more physical antisemitic attacks since Oct. 7 than in the past 10 years combined

There have been 44 physical antisemitic attacks against Jewish college students since Oct. 7, more than occurred in the previous 10 years combined, Hillel International CEO Adam Lehman told an Israeli Knesset committee on Tuesday, during a meeting between Israeli parliamentarians and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“It is truly a catastrophe at this point,” Lehman said, noting that the total number of antisemitic incidents on campuses since Oct. 7 has surpassed the 1,000 mark.

Lehman said Hillel, working with the Anti-Defamation League and the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, has been using “every legal channel available” to combat antisemitism on campus, including “lobbying aggressively with the United States government to make sure that they are enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

“That is making an enormous difference. We have more than 60 investigations now publicly announced, and that matters,” he said. “Just last week, MIT — the same president [Sally Kornbluth] who was lambasted in front of Congress — took the step of fully suspending her Students for Justice in Palestine chapter for crossing lines and for creating an unwelcome environment for Jewish students.”

The meeting of the Knesset’s Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs Committee and the Conference of Presidents focused both on the struggles of the American Jewish community — specifically rising antisemitism in general and on college campuses in particular — and on the strong ties between U.S. Jewry and Israel.

“We thank you, our dear guests, for your mobilization and many generous contributions to the State of Israel. It was very important for us. I think one of the most touching moments of this war was to see the whole Jewish people together, and I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you,” committee chair MK Oded Forer, of the Yisrael Beytenu party, said at the start of the session. 

“The State of Israel could not exist without Diaspora Jewry, and Diaspora Jewry could not be secure without the State of Israel,” he said.

Forer said Israel and the Conference of Presidents had planned to work together to ensure that Zionism is a protected belief in the United States, an effort which he said they should restart. “We must work through American government channels to ensure that Zionism receives protection under U.S. law,” Forer said.

Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff highlighted the efforts of U.S. Jewry and its ties to Israel. “Since Oct. 7, American Jews have rallied in support of Israel,” he said. “Our two countries, our two communities, are bound by common purpose and share a common destiny. America stands with Israel; American Jews stand with Israel,” Daroff said.

“We are together in this fight,” Rabbi Jacob Blumenthal, the CEO of United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and of the movement’s Rabbinical Assembly. “Our struggle in America… is a joint struggle together with everyone here in Israel. The antisemitism we are experiencing in our communities and our campuses puts us on the front lines together with you. Not in the same way, obviously, as our soldiers, but very much with each other’s support. We have each other’s back and we will prevail.”

MK Elazar Stern, of the Yesh Atid party, highlighted the importance of American support for Israel and the role that American Jews play in maintaining that support. “We know that it would not happen without you,” he told the visiting American Jewish leaders.

Stern and Blumenthal reflected on the daily experience they share, waiting for the Israel Defense Forces to announce any casualties from the previous day’s fighting, and how that matches a line from Psalm 30: “One may lie down weeping at nightfall; but at dawn there are shouts of joy.”

For Stern — and those in Israel — the experience is generally the reverse of that as the IDF spokesperson’s announcement comes first thing in the morning, normally around 6 a.m. “Only then we know how our day is going to be,” he said.

“And for me,” the East Coast-based Blumenthal said, “it comes at 11 o’clock every night. So, ‘One may lie down weeping at nightfall.’”

The American and Israeli leaders also discussed the role of foreign-born lone soldiers in the IDF. The committee meeting began by honoring one such soldier, Simon Shlomov, an immigrant from Kazakhstan, who fell in combat earlier this week.

Carol Ann Schwartz, the president of Hadassah, thanked the committee for acknowledging Shlomov, who had lived in and graduated from one of Hadassah’s youth villages.

“He was loved by the entire village and was still very active there. My heart breaks with every mother, with every parent,” she said.

Schwartz added that she is herself the mother of a lone soldier, as was Daroff and several other members of the mission. 

Stern noted that while it was tragic, the phenomenon of seeing large numbers of Israelis attending the funerals of lone soldiers, who have no or limited family in Israel, was heart-warming.

“If you look at the best soldiers and if you go to the cemeteries, unfortunately, you will see soldiers that were born in Israel, soldiers that were born in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Russia, in Ukraine, Ethiopia,” Stern said. “I think, seeing the Jewish citizens here in Israel coming to give a last dignity to soldiers that have no family in Israel shows us how much the Jewish people is a one big family from all over the world.”