The Arlington County Board has received praise from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.
Board members passed a resolution in support of the language in June.
“Hatred against Jews is a growing problem nationally and in states like Virginia,” said Alan Ronkin, director of AJC Washington D.C. “We deeply appreciate the commitment by Arlington County leaders to understanding what constitutes antisemitism, recognizing that antisemitic incidents are on the rise, and for taking concrete action to tackle this serious problem by adopting the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.”
The IHRA Working Definition has been adopted by 37 national governments, including the U.S., and by several multilateral bodies, including the European Commission and Organization of American States. In the U.S., the Working Definition is utilized by various government and law-enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education, in monitoring, training and education.
It also been adopted by 27 state government, including Virginia’s.
In it, antisemitism is defined as: “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.”
“Arlington strives to be a welcoming community where each member is valued, and the adoption [of the resolution] helps us in pursuit of that goal,” County Board Chairman Katie Cristol said, noting a “gap in knowledge and understanding regarding the various forms that antisemitic hatred can take.”
Nationally, according to the FBI, 55 percent of reported religiously motivated hate crimes in 2021 targeted Jews, even though Jews are only 2 percent of the population in the U.S. Similarly, of the 23 religious bias hate crimes reported in Virginia in 2020, 65 percent were against Jews, despite Jews making up just 1.8 percent of Virginia’s population.
Ronkin expressed appreciation for the time and effort that a number of Arlington County officials spent meeting with AJC to learn more about the rise in anti-Jewish incidents and tools for combating antisemitism. “We stand ready to extend the full resources of AJC and to work alongside Arlington County leaders,” he said.