DJJ Makes a Statement on the IHRA Definition of Antisemitism

Last week, our Executive Director and Board Chair submitted a statement to the White House Interagency Taskforce on Combatting Antisemitism.  They lifted up the critical need for the task force to take an intersectional approach in creating their strategy.  Check out the full statement below!

Dear Domestic Policy Advisor Susan Rice and
Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall,

Detroit Jews for Justice organizes the metro Detroit Jewish Community for racial and economic justice. We organize for housing justice, water rights, reproductive justice, dismantling antisemitism and promoting a multi-faith, multiracial democracy. We organize in solidarity with other marginalized communities in our region through state and local coalitions, interfaith initiatives, and Detroit-focused campaigns. Detroit Jews for Justice is the largest group of its kind in the state of Michigan and acts as a hub––even sometimes as a home––for members of the metro Detroit Jewish Community who share these progressive values rooted in tikkun olam, or repairing the world. 

Safety in solidarity

Organizing for racial and economic justice in Detroit has taught us that true safety can only be achieved through deep solidarity. Antisemitism does not occur in a vacuum; it is a key part of the machinery that upholds white supremacy. When we address antisemitism without an analysis of solidarity and intersecting oppressions, we will (intentionally or unintentionally) reinforce anti-Black racism, anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bigotry, and xenophobia. Not only does this stop us from fighting all forms of hatred, it also causes further harm to people of color in our own communities and further separates us from other marginalized groups. Definitions of antisemitism that conflate legitimate criticism of the state of Israel with anti-Jewish hatred are harmful and frequently used to silence Muslim and Arab Americans.  Similarly, implementing security programs for synagogues that focus exclusively on policing can harm people of color in congregations and broader communities - who are already at greater risk of experiencing police violence. We encourage you to examine the ways in which misguided steps to combat antisemitism might have a negative impact on other targeted communities. 

IHRA definition will not protect us

We believe adopting and codifying the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism will distract and distort the Administration’s charge to combat antisemitism.  The definition does not adequately address the most dangerous form of antisemitism experienced by Jewish communities in America: white supremacist terror. We believe that formalizing this definition has the potential to cause harm to the Jewish community as well as other marginalized groups and we strongly discourage the Administration from adopting it. 

True community safety

Your administration has recognized that the IHRA remains a flawed and imperfect tool to root out this type of violence and associated rhetoric. Instead, we urge you to tackle antisemitism with tactics of holistic community safety, which cannot and should not be disentangled from the safety of all marginalized communities. Isolating our communities will not stop the rise of violence in this country.  Decades of data, research, and community advocacy across the country has shown that safe communities require robust social infrastructure like fully-funded schools, job opportunities, and expanded civic participation. Let’s focus there.

A nuanced and robust discourse about antisemitism is necessary to combat all forms of hatred – but the IHRA definition does not get us closer to a vision of safety and security for all communities. 



Allison Zeff, Executive Director, Detroit Jews for Justice

Hayley Sakwa, Board Chair, Detroit Jews for Justice

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