February 1, 2023
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center policy statement on antisemitism
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center believes that religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and a universal human right to be respected worldwide. We oppose any discrimination, violence or expressions of hostility motivated by antisemitism. Our support includes partnering with strategic organizations to educate the public on the existence of the various forms of antisemitism at the individual, institutional and structural levels, and playing our part in combating antisemitism in the interest of inclusive freedom for all.
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center endorses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) position on antisemitism that has been adopted or endorsed by 40 countries, including the United States, as of January 2023.
"Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities."
IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism
(as of December 2019)
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center stands up and speaks out against antisemitism. It has become startlingly commonplace as people cavalierly spew the vitriol of anti-Jewish rhetoric. Incidents of antisemitism have risen more than 34% in the past two years. Politicians, celebrities and influencers followed by millions of people, including so many young people, have become emboldened to parrot decades, even centuries-old conspiracies intended only to harm and dehumanize the global Jewish community.
The plague of antisemitism is an ancient form of hate and prejudice. It seeks not just to deny Jewish people of freedom and equal access, but of human dignity and life itself. It is hate at its most pernicious – an evolving, incessant virus that infects individuals in new ways until it creates a biased pandemic of deadly proportions. It is a hate that dates back centuries but has evolved to not only be religious persecution, but racial persecution; to attack someone not for what they believe but simply who they are. It is built on stereotypes and myths meant only to demean, scare and subjugate Jewish individuals.
Holocaust denial and distortion is a uniquely wicked manifestation of antisemitism that seeks to terrorize the current Jewish community and to also dehumanize past generations. The denial and erasure of a peoples suffering acquits the perpetrators and empowers individuals present day. We know the historic cost of the Holocaust – six million innocent people murdered – but we are now seeing the deadly consequences of Holocaust denial in violent acts across the country and across the world.
Antisemitism is a direct assault on Jewish individuals; but we all stand to lose when antisemitism – and any hate – goes unchecked. No liberal democracy that has tolerated antisemitism has stayed a liberal democracy for long. The antisemitic conspiratorial lie that Jews are the root of all problems excuses people from attempting to solve the actual causes of those problems. Corroding our civil society and the democracy that relies on it.
So we cannot remain silent. We cannot remain idle. We cannot remain complacent in the face of this rising hate. We must call out antisemitism when we see it. We must be motivated by empathy and inclusion to create safe spaces. We must never forget the lessons of the Holocaust, that show us hate can not only reduce an individual but an entire population to solemn memories.
We will not, and we must not, tolerate speech, behavior and policies fueled by raw hatred, lies and conspiracy theories. Today, we, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, redeclare our commitment to stand up and speak out against antisemitism.
Woodrow Keown, Jr.
President & COO
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
Additional resources and ways to get involved
Education is a powerful tool against hate. Educate yourself about the Holocaust locally at the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanity Center.
Register to vote and make your voice heard. Elect officials who support freedom from fear and hate, who align with your commitment to inclusive freedom for all.
Speak up. When you hear antisemitic rhetoric, conspiracy theories or jokes, say something. It will take courage, but the stakes are too high to remain silent.