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June 9, 2021 12:30 pm
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Journalist and Author Bari Weiss Talks Antisemitism, ‘Sacrifices of Our Ancestors’ in Jewish History

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

Bari Weiss speaking at the AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021. Photo: Screenshot.

Journalist and author Bari Weiss urged the public on Tuesday to have “moral courage” to act against the rising tide of antisemitism, and explained how looking back at Jewish history can provide the guidance needed to do so.

“Small groups of people, often from the fringes of Jewish society, have bent reality and changed the world,” said the former New York Times editor. “Oftentimes Jewish leadership, Jewish visionaries and Jewish moral courage does not come from people that have the name ‘president’ or ‘CEO’ by their name, it comes from people often at the fringes of Jewish life.”

Weiss, who penned the book “How to Fight Antisemitism,” was a featured guest at the 2021 AJC Virtual Global Forum and appeared alongside New York Times op-ed columnist Bret Stephens and AJC Europe Director Simone Rodan-Benzaquen in a session titled “The Mainstreaming of Antisemitism: How Should We Respond?”

She highlighted how Jewish history serves as a “lighthouse” and “a moral manual of how to live” because it puts “whatever sacrifices that are asked of us right now into unbelievable perspective.”

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The Columbia University graduate spoke about resigning from The New York Times last year over of what she called “unlawful discrimination,” saying that her experiences pale in comparison to the challenges faced by others, such as human rights activist Nathan Sharansky and Hannah Senesh, a volunteer paratrooper with the British Army who joined a 1944 mission to rescue European Jews during the Holocaust.

Weiss said, “Every one of those people had to sacrifice so much so we could have the privilege, frankly,” to be the target of social media backlash. “Consider it a privilege and a badge of honor that that’s what’s being asked of us right now.”

She argued that Jewish history teaches that anyone can make a difference in the world, holding up as an example Theodor Herzl, a journalist, playwright and political activist who went on to become the father of modern political Zionism.

“Think about in our own life: how can we live up to the sacrifices that our ancestors made? To make of these freedoms that we enjoy, to live by them, [and] to live lives that are worthy of their sacrifice.”

She ended by telling viewers: “I would just say to everyone who’s watching us that’s maybe despairing or grieving that the world they inherited is no longer the world they’re living in — think about Jewish history, think about what other people have endured. That will give you perspective, and I think incredible sense of power and empowerment, of what’s possible for us to do right here and now.”

Watch Bari Weiss speak during the AJC Virtual Global Forum 2021 in the video below.

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