Standing up to Anti-Semitism/Standing up to Hate
I can’t recall ever being afraid because I’m a Jew. Until last year, Haman was a fictional anti-Semite. This year, he represents all those filled with vicious and unprovoked hatred.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has tracked domestic hate groups for decades, noted a dramatic increase in all hate crimes immediately following the November elections. In the first month, they verified over 1000 incidents of bias-related attacks. In just the first five days after the election, they documented over 400 attacks. Those attacks abated, but the threats have not disappeared.
Since Inauguration Day, over 100 JCCs and Jewish day schools have received phoned-in bomb threats. Three Jewish cemeteries, in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester, NY, have been the targets of massive vandalism and grave desecrations.
Locally, the Newton JCC has been threatened more than once. The Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton and the local ADL office received bomb threats this week. Across the country, young children from day care centers and schools have been evacuated swiftly in a manner that undoubtedly causes them mental distress.
Last Friday, a 31-year-old man was arrested in connection with threats made to 10 Jewish and one Muslim institution. That only provides a measure of relief, given the larger continuing threat.
We remain grateful that these cowardly acts have not resulted in the killing or harming of living Jews. We know that hatred in this country has led to severe attacks on immigrants, Muslims, blacks, and the LGBT community, including violence against individuals and the burning of mosques and black churches. Nevertheless, all acts of vandalism are intended to inspire fear.
Anyone who has seen a swastika spray-painted on a home or Jewish building, stepped into a Jewish cemetery where loved one’s stones have been toppled and desecrated, or seen bullet holes in a Jewish school, like the synagogue building in Evansville, Indiana last week, can’t help but feel threatened.
We know that, as Rabbi Mark Sokoll of the Newton JCC has written, “Hate against any one group is hate against all.” When we stand up as Jews against anti-semitism, we demonstrate our pride and conviction to those who wish to frighten us. We must also testify to all victims of hate that these acts will not divide us.
It is up to us to be vigilant in our own Jewish community.
It is up to us to bravely come together as never before.
Here in our temple, our leadership is taking steps to increase our attention to security. We want to make everyone feel safe without creating an atmosphere of dread.
This week of Shabbat Zachor, the Shabbat before Purim when we recall both historic and mythical enemies of the Jewish people, let us contemplate how we can stand up to hatred for all people, and take pride in our community’s perpetual stamina, faith, and courage in response.
Rabbi Barbara Penzner
Rabbi Mark Sokoll offers these ways to show your support, and make your voice heard. Though he emphasizes the threats against JCCs, we can apply any and all of these to other Jewish institutions as well.
1) SOCIAL MEDIA
Support the JCC on social media by using the #IStandWithTheJCC hashtag with supportive posts across your channels.
· Threats against JCCs are threats against the entire community. #IStandWithTheJCC
· We stand beside JCC Greater Boston. Antisemitism and hate have no place in our community. #IStandWithTheJCC
· There is no room for hate in our community. #IStandWithTheJCC
2) CALL YOUR LOCAL REPRESENTATIVE
Calling members of Congress is the most effective way to have your voice heard. Calls are tallied by staffers and the count is given to your representatives, informing them how strongly their constituents feel about a current issue. The sooner you reach out, the more likely it is that your voice will influence their position.
To find the phone number of your local congressman/congresswoman, please click here
Sample script for the call to your U.S. Representative.
Hi, my name is [NAME] and I'm a constituent from [CITY or TOWN in Massachusetts].
I’m calling to urge the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney General, and the Director of the FBI to take swift action to address the bomb threats that have been telephoned in to Jewish Community Centers and schools across the nation, and the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in the last two months. We remind you that participants from all different backgrounds come to JCCs and synagogues and other Jewish institutions for activities, Jewish cultural and religious programming, and opportunities to come together as a community.
We stand together against anti-Semitism and against all hate crimes. Thank you for your hard work.
[IF LEAVING A VOICEMAIL: please leave your full street address to ensure your call is tallied]