Jerusalem Report: How can antisemitism be fought in schools?

Speaking to reporters in Vienna on November 9, the 83rd anniversary of Kristallnacht – commemorating Nazi attacks in Germany and Austria against Jewish-owned stores, Jewish hospitals and synagogues – Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the European Jewish Congress, declared that every government should impose a law against antisemitism, and that it should be written into the constitutions of those countries that have a constitution.
Kantor, who devotes much of his energies to Holocaust remembrance and fighting neo-Nazism and antisemitism while promoting tolerance, reconciliation and peace, was interviewed at the close of an EJC executive conference at the Lichtenstein Palace, just before being presented with Austria’s highest civilian award in recognition of his services to Austria.
Of course, that does not mean that there is no antisemitism in Austria, but contrary to the situation during the Second World War, it is condemned by the government.
The purpose of the conference in Vienna was to release the findings of a three-year collaborative academic study on antisemitism and how to defeat it, by 120 Austrian, Israeli and American scholars from universities in Vienna, Tel Aviv and New York. A summary of their conclusions was presented by Prof. Armin Lange of the University of Vienna, who was joined by Professor Dina Porat of Tel Aviv University and Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman of New York University.
In addition, the overall study that included the history of antisemitism was published in five thick volumes and distributed to all present. In the summary, Lange said that the fight against antisemitism should be embodied in the legislation of each country in an irrevocable way, ideally in the framework of its constitution: “Combating and studying antisemitism must be anchored in independent institutions that can operate without government control.”
At the same time, the study acknowledges that “the irrational nature of antisemitism makes it impossible to counter Jew-hatred with rational arguments alone. Rational education about antisemitism and Judaism must therefore be accompanied by positive emotional experiences with Judaism.”
This concept is totally supported by Kantor, who worries about the impact and influence of social media, and believes that education toward respecting and understanding the other should begin at the earliest possible age, in order to counter both negative family influences and those of social media.
Because he is also associated with the Anna Freud Institute in London, where he has personally witnessed the positive effects of child and family psychotherapy, he is convinced that some of the methods employed there can also be useful in defeating antisemitism.
Enthusing about the academic study, he said that it was the most ambitious study to date on the problem of antisemitism, and details the groundwork for a united and concerted plan for preventive action.
Kantor had warm praise for those governments that are cooperating with the EJC and with other international Jewish organizations, cited Austria as being among the most cooperative. When asked which ones were the least cooperative, he hesitated momentarily and said he would have to think about it.


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