(February 14, 2020 / JNS) The organization Americans Against Antisemitism is turning to millennial women to lead efforts in combating anti-Semitic hatred and prejudice against Jews across the United States.
The group announced on Feb. 4 the creation of a Women’s Committee within the organization to focus on engaging and empowering women from every race, religion and nationality around the country to organize, act and speak out in solidarity against the rising tide of anti-Semitism, much of it taking place in the Greater New York area.
Under the umbrella of Americans Against Antisemitism, a group founded by former New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind, the Women’s Committee for Americans Against Antisemitism (WCAAA) will work to combat anti-Semitism by “building bridges, educating the general public, fostering meaningful relationships with minority communities and through grassroots civic engagement,” according to a statement by the organization.
It will operate out of New York City.
Inna Vernikov, a New York-based attorney appointed as the committee’s chairwoman. is also a board member of Americans Against Antisemitism and will be part of part of a group of lawyers associated with the new organization who will address issues of anti-Semitism from a legal perspective, Hikind told JNS.
Vernikov, a child of Ukrainian Jewish immigrants who migrated to the United States in 1996, is an outspoken advocate against anti-Semitism and defending Israel, active in a number of Jewish organizations and has spearheaded projects such as the Synagogue Security Initiative in September of 2019, which offers free security training to synagogues all over the country. She is also a chair at Legion Self Defense and a “Next Generation” board member of Tikva, a rescue aid and educational organization that helps at-risk Jewish children and impoverished Jewish families in Odessa, Ukraine.
Vernikov told JNS that when Hikind and Americans Against Antisemitism national director Bryan Leib approached her with the idea of forming a millennial-focused Women’s Committee, she was enthusiastic, saying “that women have so much to contribute.”
“I am passionate about empowering women to take part in the conversation and have a seat at the table, and I think that the world would be a better place if more women did that,” she said. “The same goes for combating anti-Semitism. We will be using our passion, voices and experience of growing up in the digital age to build connections all around the country in ways that we have never done before.”
WCAAA will function with a separate board and committee from the Americans Against Antisemitism board, meet on a monthly basis and has pledged to hold six community events in 2020. The committee is comprised of 12 New York-based members and one member in Israel, all of whom are Jewish millennial females from different professions and religious backgrounds.
The committee’s first event will be a cooking event with the African-American community “to connect and build meaningful friendships through food and working together on each other’s recipes,” according to WCAAA vice chair Mazal Barton.
‘Women at the table, lending their voices’
Barton told JNS about her interest in getting involved, “I think I speak for many Jewish women when I say that I am concerned about the drastic increase in verbal and physical attacks against Jewish people in this country, especially in New York City, which prides itself on being a bastion of tolerance and acceptance.”
“More personally,” she said, “I feel motivated by a new and pronounced fear of revealing my Jewish identity and frequenting Jewish institutions and synagogues. Simply put, I don’t want to be afraid, and I realize that eliminating that fear involves dedicating my energy to actively combating anti-Semitism. I feel that this initiative is important because there aren’t enough women at the table lending their voices to creating solutions to this current threat.”
Vernikov, who had family members murdered by the Nazis during the Holocaust, told JNS she takes “every act of anti-Semitism personally,” saying “when a Jew gets beaten, spit at, assaulted, harassed or murdered just for being a Jew, I feel that pain deeply.
“With my family history and the history of the Jewish people comes a pledge to turn ‘Never Again’ into action,” she continued. “I’m determined to do everything I can to make sure that nobody sees us as an easy target again—to make sure that we are no longer victims. And I have no doubt that together, along with my newly formed committee and allies from diverse communities, we will get this done.”
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