Missouri Governor Mike Parson. Photo: Screenshot
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson (R) on Tuesday declared September Jewish American Heritage Month, announcing at the same time that his state was also adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which has been embraced by dozens of governments and hundreds of civic institutions around the world.
“Missouri’s own Harry S. Truman was the first world leader to officially recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state, and we continue our proud support for members of the Jewish faith today,” Parson said in a statement. “While we always want to recognize, honor, and appreciate the contributions members of the Jewish faith make to our culture and communities across the state, we especially want to do so during Jewish American Heritage Month.”
Parson added that his government and the state of Missouri “unequivocally reject antisemitism towards Jewish people and bigotry of any kind. Today and every day, we say hate and discrimination have no home in Missouri.”
IHRA, an intergovernmental organization comprised of dozens of countries including the US and Israel, adopted a non-legally binding “working definition” of antisemitism in 2016. Since then, the definition has been widely accepted by Jewish groups and well over 1,000 global entities, from countries to companies. The US State Department, the European Union, and the United Nations all use it. Parson’s press release also noted that 31 US states have adopted the definition.
According to the definition, 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 provides 11 specific, contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere. Beyond classic antisemitic behavior associated with the likes of the medieval period and Nazi Germany, the examples include denial of the Holocaust and newer forms of antisemitism targeting Israel such as demonizing the Jewish state, denying its right to exist, and holding it to standards not expected of any other democratic state.
Rabbi Yaakov Menken, founder of the Coalition for Jewish Values — an Orthodox advocacy organization — welcomed Parson’s announcement.
“The most important piece of this declaration is the recognition of the [IHRA] definition of antisemitism … because the most recent facade for antisemitism is being masked as if it’s a political position and legitimate position,” Menken told the Missouri-based television station KYTV.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitic incidents in Missouri doubled from 2021 to last year amid a record high across the US overall.