Paul Rockower

In light of the recent uptick of antisemitism, and the two vandalism attacks on synagogues in Tucson, the Jewish Community Relations Council has been working behind-the-scenes to help the Jewish community attain support to be more secure in this time of crisis — and it has been using public diplomacy to help do so.

Public diplomacy is how countries and communities communicate policies, culture and values. It is a practice that understands audiences don’t react to rational information, but rather emotional, transrational connections — especially in the form of advocacy through the sharing of narratives.

Following the attacks on Congregation Chaverim and Chabad on River, the JCRC used its network of relationships to coordinate responses and rally support for the Tucson Jewish community from law enforcement, Jewish organizations, local elected officials and different faith and ethnic communities.

One might ask: Why don't non-Jewish faith and community groups simply help out without prompting? Why do we need to get their attention? 

One simple reason is that other communities are not hyper-focused on the type of discrimination and intimidation faced by the Jews.

In massively tragic — and high-profile — events like the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue or the attack on Chabad of Poway, nearby communities showed up immediately in support.

For the smaller events it is different, and requires a more proactive outreach. 

Jews feel every antisemitic incident in the kishkes, but for others the vandalism episodes were a blip in that day’s news. For many non-Jews, these incidents were random single events, not part of a dangerous pattern or evidence of a trend toward increased antisemitism.

That is why the JCRC reaches out to other faith groups, community organizations and local elected officials when lower-profile incidents such as the ones in Tucson occur. We educate them on the Jewish community’s sense of vulnerability at the trends beyond the singular incidents. This is why we educate about the upsurge of antisemitic attacks, and why we call attention to these incidents with emails, social media, op-eds and direct exhortations to our allies to get involved and stand with us in solidarity. 

Public diplomacy works in multiple directions, both externally and internally. Jewish institutions have helped communicate the wide support the Jews in Tucson received from other faith and community organizations.

In conducting public diplomacy to publicize and echo these sentiments of support, the JCRC does so both outwardly to show the coalition of allies and groundswell that has occurred, and internally to let the Jewish community know the broad outpouring that has come in. 

That is why the JCRC does public diplomacy. We reach out to civic leadership and other faith and community organizations to help them understand the Jewish people’s sense of vulnerability as a community and let them know we need allies now. 

The Jewish community can be the anchor and lead in the fight against hate, but to build a robust coalition, our focus must be broader than just antisemitism — we must be standing for all those who are threatened.

Our Arizona Jewish community will get through these difficult times, thanks to partnerships, coalitions and the strength of our relations. The JCRC will exercise all our networks of relationships via robust public diplomacy to communicate the duality of our vulnerability — and our steadfast resolve to fight against hate. JN 

Paul Rockower is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Phoenix.