Letter Urging Inclusion of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in UN Action Plan - World Jewish Congress

Letter Urging Inclusion of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in UN Action Plan

Letter Urging Inclusion of IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism in UN Action Plan

H.E. António Guterres Secretary-General United Nations, New York

H.E. Miguel Ángel Moratinos High Representative for the UN Alliance of Civilizations United Nations, New York

May 17, 2023

Your Excellencies,

We, the undersigned Jewish communities and organizations, civil society organizations, and scholars and practitioners from around the world, write to you regarding the “UN Action Plan on monitoring antisemitism and enhancing a system-wide response” that Under Secretary-General Moratinos is presently finalizing in his capacity as the UN’s senior focal point on antisemitism since 2020.

We greatly appreciate your consistent recognition that global antisemitism is an insidious danger that harms Jewish individuals and communities, and the broader societies in which we live. We welcome your commitment to making the United Nations a more effective force for countering and combating Jew-hatred around the world.

We have long recognized that in order to combat antisemitism we must understand it. Key to these efforts is employing a clear and comprehensive definition that explains the multiple forms antisemitism may take.

It is our collective view that the non-legally binding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is an indispensable tool to understand and fight antisemitism, and one that can be used entirely consistently with fundamental human rights standards. Indeed, any UN Action Plan must acknowledge the importance of the IHRA Working Definition to the vast majority of Jewish individuals, organizations, and communities who are the primary targets of antisemitic hatred, discrimination, and violence; are the Action Plan’s primary intended beneficiaries; and are best placed to identify manifestations of hatred and bias directed against us.

We note that the IHRA Working Definition (and its predecessor EUMC Working Definition), which was developed with the cooperation and support of Jewish communities, has provided essential guidance to governments and organizations in Europe, the Americas, and elsewhere for nearly two decades in their efforts to combat antisemitism. As the annex to this letter demonstrates, it has been adopted by more than 40 nations and multilateral organizations such as the European Union and the Organization of American States. It has earned the near-unanimous endorsement of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Thirty-one US states, numerous local governments, and countless businesses, universities, and organizations around the world use it to address harm to our communities. No other definition of antisemitism has been broadly adopted and utilized by practitioners, governments, and civil society. All recognize that the IHRA definition has immense value as an educational tool that offers an evaluative framework, with clear examples of the multiple forms antisemitism can take, that empowers the victims and society at large to identify forms of antisemitism that might otherwise go unrecognized. As you are aware, former UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, also recognized the unique value of the IHRA Working Definition and explicitly recommended its use as an educational and training tool in his 2019 report and 2022 action plan on antisemitism, which he prepared following wide consultations with Jewish organizations and community leaders.

We note that the IHRA Working Definition offers succinct explanations and practical examples that can help governments and individuals at all levels of society recognize antisemitism. These include conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, as well as the demonization of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity.

It is this latter aspect of the IHRA Working Definition that has elicited concern from some civil society organizations. However, we stress that its inclusion in the IHRA Working Definition is precisely what makes this tool uniquely valuable for understanding and monitoring modern day antisemitism. Indeed, forms of antisemitism that are masked as “anti-Zionism” and that deny Jews the right to self-determination are among those most frequently encountered by many Jews today, whether or not they are Zionists. This is well-documented in surveys conducted by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights in Europe and by surveys in the United States as well. So-called “alternative definitions” that have been formulated as responses to the IHRA Working Definition do not adequately or effectively clarify this form of antisemitism and are not appropriate for inclusion in the UN Action Plan. There are few if any examples of their practical use. Thus, we believe any references to these alternative definitions would only introduce greater confusion into the UN Action Plan and undermine our common efforts to combat antisemitism.

We reiterate that, contrary to the assertions of some civil society organizations, the IHRA Working Definition explicitly affirms that criticism of Israel per se is not antisemitic. We note that many of the governments that have adopted the IHRA Working Definition and consider it a useful tool have found it entirely possible to sharply criticize Israeli policies and practices. We note, further, that the IHRA Working Definition is not legally binding and does nothing to prohibit any speech, even the most hateful.

We urge you to ensure that the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism is referenced positively in the forthcoming “UN Action Plan on monitoring antisemitism and enhancing a system-wide response” as an indispensable educational and monitoring tool, the value of which has been widely recognized by many key stakeholders, and one that should be used for training UN staff, among others, on how to recognize and respond to antisemitism.

Thank you for considering our views on this matter.

Please accept, Excellencies, the assurance of our highest consideration.

Initiating Organizations

1. Anti-Defamation League

2. American Jewish Committee

3. B’nai B’rith International

4. Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations

5. European Jewish Congress

6. Jewish Federations of North America

7. World Jewish Congress

Other Global Organizations

8.    Combat Antisemitism Movement

9.    Commonwealth Jewish Council

10. Euro-Asian Jewish Congress (EAJC)

11. HIAS

12. National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry (NCSEJ)

13. United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

14. Women's League for Conservative Judaism

15. World Union of Jewish Students

16. Women's International Zionist Organization (WIZO)

Regional Organizations


1.    European Association for the Preservation and Promotion of Jewish Culture and Heritage (AEPJ)

2.    B’nai B’rith Europe

3.    Conference of European Rabbis

4.    European Coalition for Israel

5.    European Union of Jewish Students 

6.    European Jewish Congress

7.    Forum for Cultural Diplomacy

Latin America

8.    B’nai B’rith Latin America

North America

9.    Jewish Federations of North America

10. Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity

National Communities and Organizations (by United Nations regional group)

East European Region


11. Jewish Community of Armenia


12. Baku Religious Community of European Jews


13. Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities

Bosnia and Herzegovina

14. Jewish Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina


15. Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria “Shalom”

16. Religious Community of the Jews in Bulgaria

17. Beit Shalom Jewish Educational Foundation Bulgaria

18. Tzedaka- Shalom foundation - OJB Shalom


19. Coordination Committee of the Jewish Communities in the Republic of Croatia

Czech Republic

20. Federation of Jewish Communities in Czech Republic


21. Jewish Community of Estonia


22. Jewish Cultural and Education Fund


23. Mazsihisz (Federation of Jewish Communities in Hungary)


24. Latvian Council of Jewish Communities


25. Jewish Community of Lithuania


26. Jewish Community of Republic of Moldova


27. Jewish Community of Montenegro

North Macedonia

28. Jewish Community in the Republic of North Macedonia


29. Jewish Community of Poland

30. Lodge Polin of B’nai B’rith (B’nai B’rith Poland)

31. Jewish Association Czulent


32. B'nai B'rith Romania


33. Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia

34. Terraforming


35. Federation of Jewish Communities in Slovakia


36. Jewish Confederation of Ukraine

37. Ukranian Jewish Committee

Latin American and Caribbean Region


38. Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (AMIA)

39. B’nai B’rith Argentina


40. Circulo Israelita La Paz Bolivia 


41. B’nai B’rith Brazil

42. Confederação Israelita do Brasil (CONIB)


43. B’nai B’rith Chile

44. Comunidad Judía de Chile


45. B’nai B’rith Colombia

Costa Rica

46. B’nai B’rith Costa Rica

47. Centro Israelita Sionista de Costa Rica

Dominican Republic

48. Centro Israelita de la República Dominicana


49. B’nai B’rith Ecuador

El Salvador

50. Comunidad Israelita de El Salvador


51. B’nai B’rith Guatemala


52. B’nai B’rith Honduras


53. B’nai B’rith Mexico

54. Comité Central de la Comunidad Judía de México

55. Tribuna Israelita


56. Comisión Antidifamación CAD B'nai B'rith (B’nai B’rith Panama) 

57. Congreso Judio Panameño

58. Consejo Comunitario Hebreo de Panamá


59. Comunidad Judía del Paraguay


60. Asociación Judía del Perú

61. B’nai B’rith Peru


62. B’nai B’rith Uruguay


63. B’nai B’rith Venezuela

64. Confederación de Asociaciones Israelitas de Venezuela

Western European and Others (WEOG) Region


65. Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council 

66. B’nai B’rith Australia and New Zealand 

67. Executive Council of Australian Jewry


68. Centropa

69. Jewish Community Vienna (Israelitische Kultusgemeinde Wien)


70. Le Comité de Coordination des Organisations Juives de Belgique (CCOJB)

71. CCLJ-Belgium (Centre communautaire laïc juif David Suskind)

72. The International Jewish Center


73. Adas Yeshurun Herzlia

74. B’nai Brith Canada

75. Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)

76. Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada

77. The Abraham Global Peace Initiative


78. Jewish Community of Denmark


79. Central Council of Jewish Communities in Finland


80. B’nai B’rith France

81. CRIF - Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France

82. Ligue Internationale Contre le Racisme et l'Antisémitisme (LICRA)


83. Amadeu Antonio Foundation

84. Central Council of Jews in Germany 

85. Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (ZWST)

86. Deutsch-Israelische Gesellschaft e.V.

87. German Union of Jewish Students (JSUD)

88. “Jehi ˈOr” Jüdisches Bildungswerk für Demokratie – gegen Antisemitismus gUG

89. Jewish Forum for Democracy and Against Anti-Semitism (JFDA)

90. MAKKABI Deutschland e. V.

91. Mideast Freedom Forum Berlin

92. Service Center for Anti-Discrimination North Rhine-Westphalia (SABRA NRW)


93. WerteInitiative - Jewish-German Positions Greece

94. Central Board of Jewish Communities in Greece


95. Jewish Representative Council of Ireland


96. B’nai B’rith World Center – Jerusalem

97. Centre for Jewish Impact

98. NGO Monitor


99. B’nai B’rith Italy

100.   Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI)


101.   Verein Jüdische Gemeinschaft im Fürstentum Liechtenstein


102.   Consistoire Israelite de Luxembourg


103.   Jewish Community of Malta


104.   Nederlands-Israëlitisch Kerkgenootschap (NIK) Org. Jewish Communities in the Netherlands

105.   CIDI (Center for Information and Documentation Israel)

New Zealand

106.   Australasian Union of Jewish Students in New Zealand

107.   Beth Shalom Progressive Synagogue

108.   Council of Jewish Women Aotearoa NZ

109.   Holocaust Centre of New Zealand

110.   Nelson Jewish Community Inc

111.   New Zealand Community Security Group Trust

112.   Wellington Jewish Community Centre

113.   Wellington Progressive Jewish Congregation

114.   Zionist Federation of New Zealand


115.   Det Mosaiske Trossamfunn - Jewish Community Oslo


116.   Gibraltar Jewish Community


117.   Jewish Community of Lisbon


118.   Federation of Jewish Communities of Spain


119.   Official Council of Swedish Jewish Communities

120.   Swedish Union of Jewish Youth (Judiska ungdomsförbundet i Sverige, JUS)


121.   Gamaraal Foundation

122.   Swiss Federation of Jewish Communities


123.   The Jewish Community of Türkiye (Turkey)

United Kingdom

124.   Antisemitism Policy Trust

125.   Association of Jewish Refugees

126.   Board of Deputies of British Jews

127.   BICOM (Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre)

128.   Community Security Trust

129.   Jewish Leadership Council

130.   London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

United States1

131.   AMIT Children

132.   AIPAC

133.   Alliance for Academic Freedom

134.   American Friends of Likud

135.   American Zionist Movement

136.   CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis)

137.   Center for Righteousness and Integrity (CRINY)

138.   Emunah of America

139.   Endowment for Middle East Truth

140.   Hadassah, The Women's Zionist Organization of America

141.   Indigenous Bridges

142.   Jewish Studies Zionist Network


144.   NA'AMAT USA

145.   North Carolina Coalition for Israel

146.   ORT America

147.   Rabbinical Assembly

148.   Rabbinical Council of America

149.   Religious Zionists of America – Mizrachi

150.   Shields of David

151.   Stop BDS on Campus

152.   Swarthmore Alumni Against Antisemitism on Campus

153.   Telluride Jewish Community

154.   Temple Sinai

155.   Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

156.   United Teacher Los Angeles (UTLA) Educators Caucus for Israel

157.   Zioness Movement

158.   ZOA

African Region

South Africa

159.   South African Jewish Board of Deputies

Asia-Pacific Region


161.   Jewish Community of Cyprus


161.   Jewish Community of Japan


162.   Myanmar Jewish Community

Academics and Practitioners


1.    Dr. Steven Albert, University of Pittsburgh

2.    Dr. Uzi Baram

3.    Katherine Barbieri, University of South Carolina, Department of Political Science

4.    Philip Barnett, City University of New York

5.    Volker Beck, Lehrbeauftragter/Associate Lecturer Centrum für Religionswissenschaftliche Studien CERES Ruhr-Universität Bochum

6.    Dr. Ulrike Becker, Middle East Freedom Forum, Berlin

7.    Deidre Berger, Tikvah Institut gUG

8.    Darrell Bock

9.    Geoffrey Braswell, UCSD Department of Anthropology

10. Professor Bruce Bukiet

11. Dr. Mehak Burza, Head, Global Holocaust and Religion Studies 

12. Dr. Ellen Cannon, Professor of Political Science and Jewish Studies, ISGAP

13. Paul Cantz, PsyD, ABPP

14. Professor Daniel Chernilo, Universidad Adolfo Ibáñez, Chiel

15. Perry Dane, Rutgers Law School

16. Morton M. Denn, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus, City College of New York

17. Donna Robinson Divine, Morningstar Family Professor of Jewish Studies and Professor of Government, Emerita, Smith College

18. Stanley Dubinsky, University of South Carolina

19. Dr. Tanja Ehmann, KHSB-Berlin

20. Miriam F. Elman, Syracuse University

21. Irina Esterlis, Yale University

22. Dr. Ayal Feinberg, Gratz College

23. Terri Susan Fine, University of Central Florida

24. Luis Fleischman, Palm Beach State College

25. Dr. Matthew Flisfeder, The University of Winnipeg

26. Steven Fraade, Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Yale University

27. Professor Rosa Freedman, University of Reading

28. Ben M. Freeman

29. Anna Geifman, Bar Ilan University

30. Dr Aleksandra Gliszczyńska-Grabias Institute of Law Studies, Polish Academy of Sciences

31. Dr. Avraham Goldstein, The City University of New York (CUNY)

32. David Graizbord, University of Arizona

33. Dr. Susan Greenberg, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Roehampton

34. Haskel Greenfield, Distinguished Professor, University of Manitoba

35. Marc Grimm, Deputy Professor for the Didactis of Social Science at Wuppertal University

36. Jaime Grinberg, Montclair State University

37. Professor Oren Gross, Irving Younger Professor of Law, University of Minnesota Law School

38. Gary D. Grossman, University of Georgia

39. Amber Gum, PhD

40. David Halahmy, History Department Chair, Cypress College

41. Jaroslava Halper. University of Georgia

42. Linda Haramati, Yale School of Medicine

43. Kent D. Harber, Rutgers University at Newark

44. Professor Bernard Harrison, Chair Emeritus, University of Utah, University of Sussex

45. Allan Havis, University of California San Diego

46. Professor Jeffrey Herf, Distinguished University Professor, Emeritus, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park

47. Professor David Hirsh, Academic Director and CEO of the London Centre for the Study of Antisemitism and Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Goldsmiths, University of London

48. Dr. Dahn Hiuni

49. Morten Hunke, CEFR Journal - Research and Practice, Anna-Lindh-Schule, Berlin

50. Gunther Jikeli, Institute for the Study of Antisemitism, Indiana University

51. Alex Kamenev, University of Minnesota

52. Professor Sergei Kan, Dartmouth College

53. Ellen W. Kaplan, Professor Emeritus, Smith College

54. Jonathan Katz, University of Maryland

55. Marc Katz, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium

56. William Katz, University of Texas at Dallas

57. Steven G. Kellman, University of Texas at San Antonio

58. Lesley Klaff, Sheffield Hallam University, Journal of Contemporary Antisemitism

59. Cary Kogan, University of Ottawa

60. Marvin Koss, Upstate Medical University

61. Joël Kotek, Université Libre de Bruxelles

62. Dr. Matthias Kuntzel

63. Joseph Kushick

64. Norma Landau, University of California Davis

65. Armin Lange, Professor for Antisemitism Studies, University of Vienna, and Second Temple Judaism

66. Professor Ruth Langer, Boston College

67. David Leffell, Yale University

68. Diana Levin

69. Dr. Marian Levy, University of Memphis

70. Professor Joe Lockard, Arizona State University, English Department

71. Professor Doron Lubinsky

72. Dr. Lee Lukoff, Adjunct Professor, American University

73. Dyanne Martin, Wheaton College

74. Graeme Mason, Yale University

75. James Mendelsohn, University of the West of England

76. Professor Philip Mendes, Monash University

77. Professor Evan Morris, Yale University

78. Sebastien Mosbah-Natanson, Sorbonne Unviersite

79. Fred Naider, Professor Emeritus College of Staten Island, CUNY

80. Cary Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

81. Serban Nichifor

82. S. Ben Niku

83. Pamela Paresky

84. David Patterson, Hillel A. Feinberg Distinguished Chair in Holocaust Studies, Ackerman Center for Holocaust Studies, University of Texas at Dallas

85. Andrew Pessin

86. Steven Pinker, Harvard University

87. Professor Dina Porat, Professor Emeritus, Modern Jewish History, Tel Aviv University

88. Professor Susan Prager, Brooklyn College, CUNY

89. Daniel Prober, Yale University

90. Elke Rajal

91. Walter Reich, Yitzhak Rabin Memorial Professor of International Affairs, Ethics and Human Behavior, The George Washington University

92. Dr. Lars Rensman, University of Passau

93. Dr. Dave Rich

94. Mark Rosenbaum, Hawaii Pacific University, College of Business

95. Jonathan Rosenberg

96. Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, Indiana University, Professor of English and Jewish Studies; Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies; Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

97. Richard Ross, University of Illinois

98. Elisha Russ-Fishbane, New York University

99. Michael Schmitt, University of Reading

100.   Allison E.Schottenstein, Gratz College

101.   Dr. Joshua Schwartz, Land of Israel Studies and Archaeology, Bar-Ilan University

102.   Sheri Schwartz

103.   David Schwartzer

104.   Maurice Schweitzer, University of Pennsylvania

105.   Michael Scrivner, Professor of English, Emeritus, Wayne State University

106.   David Seidman, Northwestern University

107.   Dr. Miriam Shenkar, Ohio State University

108.   Dr. Gale Sigal, Wake Forest University

109.   Julie Simon, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium

110.   Amanda J. Smith

111.   Professor Philip Spencer

112.   Scott Spitzer, California State University, Fullerton

113.   Izabella Tabarovsky, Fellow, London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

114.   Professor Marc Tetel, Wellesley College

115.   Ilan Troen, Brandeis University

116.   Jefferey D. Ullman, Stanford University

117.   Albert Wachtel, Professor of Creative Studies, Pitzer College

118.   Professor James Wald, Hampshire College

119.   Rivka Weinberg, Scripps College, Claremont Colleges Consortium

120.   Michael Whine, Senior Consultant, World Jewish Congress

121.   Batia Wiesenfeld

122.   Malka Zeiger Simkovich, Catholic Theological Union

123.   Professor Martin Zwick, Professor, Portland State University