Let me begin this week's message by wishing everyone a very Happy Purim, Chag Purim. With celebrations underway, I hope everyone enjoys a hamantaschen and tries to perform the four mitzvot of the holiday – hear the megillah, give a gift of food, eat a festive meal, and give charity.
Last week, during his appearance on "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert," Steven Speilberg spoke about witnessing antisemitism in society today. He said,
"Antisemitism has always been there, it's either been just around the corner and slightly out of sight but always lurking, or it has been much more overt like in Germany in the '30s. But not since Germany in the '30s have I witnessed antisemitism no longer lurking, but standing proud with hands on hips like Hitler and Mussolini, kind of daring us to defy it. I've never experienced this in my entire life, especially in this country. Somehow, the marginalizing of people that aren't part of some kind of a majority race is something that has been creeping up on us for years and years and years. Hate became a kind of membership to a club that has gotten more members than I ever thought was possible in America. And hate and antisemitism go hand in hand, you can't separate one from the other."
I share this in my message today because it illustrates that antisemitism continues to be a news topic. Judaism teaches us that in every generation, a Hamen will rise to challenge us and try to eradicate us. While not a person, antisemitism continues raising its evil head and threatening our existence.
At times like this, you may have asked yourself, "What can I do to combat antisemitism, and how will my actions do anything to stop it?" Here at the Jewish Federation, we have figured out a way that you can help make a difference.
At the end of last week, I wrote a letter to all of the city mayors in our region, a total of 40 (not including a few areas that are governed by other entities), asking that they stand with the Jewish community to say that antisemitism and all forms of hatred will not be tolerated in our area. The letter highlighted for them how significant the issue is, the impact antisemitism has on our community, and how we need them to partner with us to tackle this hatred. I requested that they take the following steps:
Join over 700+ Mayors nationwide and sign the American Jewish Committee and US Conference of Mayors' statement to combat antisemitism.
Adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) working definition on antisemitism.
Propose, approve, and adopt a resolution denouncing and condemning antisemitism and all forms of hatred.
Establish and convene a task force of representatives from the city and various ethnic and racial groups to develop a plan to combat and confront hatred in the city.
We also mailed a copy of the letter to every City Council Member and City Manager to inform them of the Jewish community's request.
Now, this is where you have tremendous power as an individual and can help us make a BIG difference. Contact your city and ask them to take action. Attend a City Council meeting and publicly request, as a citizen of that city, the City's leadership take the requested action steps to help eradicate hatred in our community. Please let us know if you need additional information or talking points, and we will get it to you.
While I am not naïve to think that if each city takes these actions, antisemitism or hatred will be immediately eradicated. However, I am confident that things will continue to get worse if we don't act now. And with your help, we have a great chance to make a big difference.
Now is the time for all of us to be Esther and do what we can end the current Hamen that has arisen in our society.
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