The National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) on Wednesday sent a letter to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) after she claimed that the United States “is running concentration camps on our southern border.”
The organization criticized Ocasio Cortez’s decision to invoke Holocaust-related terminology as part of a political debate.
In the letter, which was written by NCYI President Farley Weiss, the NCYI offered to meet with Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and help her “learn more about the Holocaust and better understand the deadly role that concentration camps played in the Nazis’ abhorrent attempt to murder an entire generation of Jews.”
“While people can choose to either criticize or support the various immigration measures being employed by the United States government, making references to concentration camps in that context minimizes the atrocities of the Holocaust and cheapens the memories of the countless Jews who perished in those horrific camps,” Weiss wrote in his letter.
“There is simply no comparison with what happened in these concentration camps with what is occurring at the border. Applying the terminology that you choose to use denigrates the significance of the mass murder of Jews, and we urge you to be more sensitive to the dangers of using Holocaust-related expressions in conjunction with present-day political matters,” he added.
“As a result of the Nazis’ exploitation of Jews through unspeakable means, including the use of concentration camps as a precursor to their death, we need to be more sensitive to how we use certain terms, including ‘concentration camps,’” continued Weiss. “Irrespective of any technical definition, concentrations camps conjure up shocking images of emaciated and persecuted Jews on death’s door, and invoke frightening memories of one of the most horrendous chapters in Jewish history.”
Ocasio-Cortez's comments infuriated Republicans, including the party's third ranking congresswoman Liz Cheney, who urged Ocasio-Cortez to "spend just a few minutes learning some actual history" about the six million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust.
Several other Republicans weighed in with criticism, including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) who said that "comparing the men and women serving our country to concentration camp guards (does) the Congress and country a great disservice."
The Coalition for Jewish Values (CJV), which represents over 1,000 Orthodox rabbis in the US, also blasted Ocasio-Cortez and accused her of "trivializing" the Holocaust.
Ocasio-Cortez has defended her use of the term concentration camp, citing experts including a rabbi who say there is a distinction between concentration camps run by Germany in the 1930s and the extermination camps, or death camps, that the Nazis operated beginning in 1941.
This is not the first time that Ocasio-Cortez has used the Holocaust in a controversial manner.
In April, she caused an uproar after she quoted a passage about the Holocaust to defend Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who was criticized for downplaying the 9/11 attacks.
Also in April, Ocasio-Cortez said that cutting military and economic aid to Israel as a way to signal opposition to Israeli policies should be “on the table.”