Gottheimer: ‘We need to make sure that truth prevails’

Congressman, while accepting prestigious Morris Katz Award from Orthodox Jewish Chamber, says combatting disinformation with education is daily struggle that must be fought

U.S. Rep. Josh Gottheimer said he was stunned earlier this week when he heard the news: Wikipedia had ruled that the Anti-Defamation League — one of the world’s preeminent authorities on anti-Jewish hate and a significant advocate for the rights and causes of American Jews — should not be considered a reliable source of information on antisemitism.

The ruling came in response to recent statements regarding the current Israeli-Hamas war. But Gottheimer — and anyone else following the situation — knows it goes much deeper than that.

“What this is really about is the disinformation and smear campaign that we’re facing in our country and around the world,” he said. “Whether it’s on TikTok or anywhere on social media, the attacks are clear — and the disinformation is clear.

“Our job — and I can’t say this enough — is to make sure young people understand what our history is. Not just Jewish American history, or the U.S.-Israel relationship, but all history, so they understand what actually happened.”

Gottheimer has been a leader in truth-telling since he was first elected as the representative from the 5th Congressional District in 2016.

His efforts regarding U.S.-Israeli relations and educating the public on Israeli history — starting with the Holocaust and now the Oct. 7 invasion by Hamas — are most noted for the Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons Act, better known as the HEAL Act.

The bill, which passed in January, still needs to be acted upon in the Senate.

Its purpose, Gottheimer said, was clear this past spring, during protests on university campuses in New Jersey and across the country. Truth, Gottheimer said, needs to be the greatest influence on the next generation of college students.

“When it’s time to stand up and speak out, like we’re seeing on college campuses, we need to make sure they know what actually happened, and don’t follow along just because someone else is screaming and yelling something incendiary,” he said.

“That’s the reality we’re facing across our country right now.”

On Thursday in Teaneck, Gottheimer was presented with the third annual Morris Katz Award.

The prestigious award, named after the prolific artist, was presented by the Morris Katz Foundation, together with the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce. It honors individuals who have made significant contributions to promoting education, combating antisemitism and fostering a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the U.S.

Katz, a Holocaust survivor, is best known for his collection of paintings of U.S. presidents — an effort he undertook to show his gratitude for being able to live in peace in the democratic U.S. after World War II.

The significance of the award — and its connection to the present-day turmoil around the world — was not lost on Gottheimer.

“Morris Katz got this,” he told a crowd of a few dozen at the ceremony. “In painting about the American presidents, he understood the history of our great country — our democracy, our values, what we fight for and stand up for.”

Since he went to Congress, Gottheimer has been fighting to strengthen the U.S.-Israel relationship.

“It’s critical to America’s national security, to our fight against terror, to our support for the democracy in the region,” he said. “It’s about our values that we support, and the fight against terror (groups), who continue to attack the United States of America.

“This is an attack on democracy and on our country. The terrorists hate the United States more than they hate Israel. They hate what we stand for, what we fight for and what we do every single day. And that’s what this fight is about. It’s about good versus evil.”

It’s about standing up for the truth, Gottheimer said.

“It’s about making sure that we, as a community, stick together, stand up and make sure that everybody understands what this is about: hate,” he said. “It’s about standing up to all forms of hate, whether it’s antisemitism or Islamophobia.

“We need to stand up and speak out and say, ‘Not in Jersey.’”