We hope you are finding time to gather with friends and loved ones during these difficult days. We’re grateful to be a part of your community, and, as we did last year, we want to celebrate Hanukkah by introducing you to some of the writers, editors, and organizational staff who make Jewish Currents what it is. Each night, you’ll meet a different member of our team, who will reflect on work they found particularly meaningful from the last year.
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I’m Nora Caplan-Bricker, the executive editor at Jewish Currents. Last year, I met up with Aparna Gopalan, who is now the magazine’s news editor, for a getting-to-know-you drink. Aparna had recently come to JC as a fellow, and she told me that she had decided to apply for the job because, as an Indian person living in the diaspora, she was deeply invested in contesting the ethnonationalist politics ascendant in her community—and she had learned a lot about how to do so from her friendships with anti-Zionist Jews. To illustrate the parallels between the two struggles, Aparna told me about a new effort on the Hindu right to codify a concept of “Hinduphobia” that could be wielded against political opponents. It seemed clear that the term’s architects had drawn inspiration from Israel-advocacy organizations, which have long weaponized accusations of antisemitism to silence anti-Zionist criticism. Aparna wondered if, by researching the origins of the concept of Hinduphobia, she might uncover a larger story.
Many long months of reporting later, Aparna delivered a jaw-dropping investigation into the Hindu American organizations advancing this new rhetorical strategy, which was published in our Spring 2023 issue and quickly became one of our most-read articles of all time. The piece explored the decades-long collaboration between Israel-advocacy organizations and Hindu nationalist groups in the United States. Their members didn’t hesitate to confirm that the effort to formalize a concept of Hinduphobia drew upon the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which conflates criticism of Israel with anti-Jewish bigotry. As Aparna reported, accusations of anti-Hindu prejudice have already been used against scholars, journalists, and politicians who condemn Hindu nationalism, as well as against activists who oppose caste discrimination.
I’ve thought about these Hinduphobia campaigns in recent weeks, as powerful institutions across the US—from elite universities to the House of Representatives—have doubled down on the idea that anti-Zionist and pro-Palestinian demonstrators pose an urgent threat to Jews. Mainstream news outlets have sanctioned this absurd conflation, deprioritizing coverage of Israel’s actual, genocidal assault on Gaza to elevate articles about Jewish anxiety—and justifying an unprecedented crackdown against supporters of Palestinian rights in the process. Aparna’s work reminds us that the discursive strategies of the pro-Israel camp serve not only to protect one ethnonationalist project, but to inspire others around the world. As the forces of authoritarianism and racial supremacy gain ground by working across national borders, it’s incumbent on us, their opponents, to seek out the points of connection between our struggles, which reveal the contours of what we’re up against and offer opportunities for new solidarities. I’m glad to share Aparna’s piece as an example of great journalism that does just that.
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