I’m going to ask your indulgence as I write about something upsetting, vaguely frightening, and entirely unrelated to international judicial assistance. An anonymous “multi-generational collective of activists and organizers” known as the Mapping Project has published a map of most of the key organizations in the organized Jewish community in Massachusetts. Lest you think this is just a friendly map, or a symbolic map, or a diagram of supposed connections between various groups, the authors want to be very clear: they have published a physical map with real locations for the purpose of disruption:
These entities exist in the physical world and can be disrupted in the physical world. We hope people will use our map to help figure out how to push back effectively.
Who is on the list? Yachad New England, an organization that provides services to Jews with disabilities and their families. The Synagogue Council of Massachusetts, an umbrella group for synagogues of all streams of Judaism. Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the premier Jewish charity in Boston, which supports all kinds of worthy charities throughout New England. My children’s high school, Gann Academy, a pluralistic Jewish high school that, according to the anonymous authors, oppresses the downtrodden by giving students the opportunity to travel to Israel. And so on, down the list of more or less all the Jewish organizations and foundations you can name.
What is it that puts all these worthy organizations on the hit list? Zionism, which the anonymous authors define as “a form of white supremacy that supports the colonization of Palestine by a settler population.” And they are not just talking about right-wing Zionism: J Street, the left-wing organization, is on the hit list, too. Zionists in New England, according to the authors, “buy legitimacy and support from universities, use their influence to enable a range of oppressive agendas: supporting the Israeli army and Israeli settlements in Palestine; criminalizing Palestine liberation activists on college campuses; funding US police departments and cop unions; extracting wealth from colonized Puerto Rico; and advancing the privatization of US public schools.” In other words:
The authors make much of the connections between Jewish organizations and local police departments without acknowledging the main reason for the close relationship: there are hundreds of antisemitic incidents at synagogues, Jewish community centers, and schools each year, including of course the hostage crisis at Beth Israel in Colleyville earlier this year, the stabbing of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski in Boston in 2021, the shooting at Chabad of Poway in 2019, and the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018, as well as the many incidents of violence and harassment directed a visibly Jewish people just walking down the street in cities including New York. If you have not attended a synagogue service in recent years or been to a Jewish school, you would be shocked at the time, money, and resources the community spends protecting itself and at the infringement on what should be our freedom to gather together without having to lock the doors, hire police details, or take other extreme measures. We attended my son’s high school graduation this week and could see the heightened security due to the school’s inclusion on the list. It shouldn’t have to be this way.
The anonymous authors chose not to put synagogues on their list, probably in order to preserve the fiction that their anti-Zionism is not anti-Judaism or antisemitism. But if the criterion for inclusion is any degree of support of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in the land of Israel, then the authors really should have listed more or less every synagogue and indeed, the vast majority of the Jewish community as individuals. Apparently we all are responsible for police brutality, victimization of Puerto Ricans, undermining the public school system, and in general using our “influence to enable a range of oppressive agendas.”
Not too long ago, blatant antisemitism like this—making a list of Jewish institutions and accusing them of responsibility for a wide set of social ills and of using their influence behind the scenes like malevolent puppetmasters—would be enough to relegate the speaker to the fringes. Today, I’m not so sure. As leaders throughout Massachusetts, from many members of our congressional delegation to many other civic leaders to the mainstream press, have strongly condemned the Mapping Project website as antisemitic and unacceptable, I suspect that there are many people who take the mainstream condemnation as a sure sign that the Mapping Project has got things right. And so the Jewish community must again focus physical security and worry about the safety of our schools and houses of worship, this time thanks to a map published by nameless “activists” who claim to be acting in the name of justice while repeating the most traditional and pernicious of antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories.