Antisemitism and Hate Crimes
In 2018, a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue on Shabbat, shouting his desire to kill Jews and killed 11 people in the deadliest attack on Jews in American history. This tragic day was followed by attacks in other cities. These acts of violence do not exist in a vacuum. Hate is on the rise towards so many marginalized communities, exemplified by the anti-immigrant 2019 attack in El Paso. According to the FBI Hate Crimes Statistics (required under the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act), violent hate crimes are increasing.
Most nationwide surveys released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) over the past 25 years consistently indicate between 11 and 14 percent of Americans harbor antisemitic views. As the Holocaust falls further from recent memory, hate remains. American millennials lack knowledge of the Holocaust and Across the globe, 1.09 billion people hold antisemitic attitudes and 35 percent of people have never heard of the Holocaust.
Why Should Jews Care?
In the Holiness Code, in Leviticus, we are commanded both that "You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself" (Leviticus 19:17-18) and that "You may not stand idly by when your neighbor's blood is being shed? (Leviticus 19:16).
We are also taught, in the very beginning of the Torah, that "God created man in God's own image, in the image of God () God created him; male and female God created them" (Genesis 1:27). Judaism consistently teaches the importance of tolerance and the acceptance of others, even those different from ourselves. Even more than simply preaching tolerance, we must actively work to improve, open, and make safer our communities.
Across the United States, houses of worship and other religious institutions face an alarming level of violence. Religious institutions must be able to access the necessary resources to ensure their institutions remain safe and welcoming to all. Urge your members of Congress to support the bipartisan Pray Safe Act to establish a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship can access safety resources.
While hate crime laws cannot eliminate bigotry, legislation serves as a deterrent to those individuals who choose to act on their hatred by imposing stricter penalties against the perpetrators of these crimes.
Antisemitism is on the rise in North America and around the world, showcased in the annual ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Acts. Violent attacks on Jewish institutions and Jews are also increasing.
Bias and violence against the Muslim community is a growing, insidious issue in the United States. The number of assaults against Muslims in 2016 surpassed the modern peak reached in 2001, following the September 11th terrorist attacks, and incidents of anti-Muslim intimidation continue to rise, as well.
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Engage Your Congregation
Please read these two memos on congregational security to enhance your synagogue’s security measures:
- 2018 Memo to congregations and rabbis on the acceptance of governmental security grants
- 2004 Memo to Rabbis, Presidents, and Temple Administrators on Homeland Security Department Funding of Synagogue Security
The Movement Advancement Project provides a comprehensive overview of hate crime laws and examines the need for approaches that support, rather than criminalize, communities targeted by hatred. Review the report to learn more about your state's hate crime laws.
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