In August 2017, many of us watched in horror as people with tiki torches chanting, “Jews will not replace us,” marched through Charlottesville, VA at the Unite the Right Rally. In October 2017, the group Integrity First for America (IFA) filed a lawsuit against the organizers of the rally, specifically Jason Kessler and Richard Spencer. We learned about these efforts during a JCRC virtual program with IFA Executive Director, Amy Spitalnick, last year. On November 23, 2021, following a month-long trial in the Western District of Virginia, a jury decided that the defendants had engaged in a conspiracy to commit violence and intimidation that was illegal. The verdict held the defendants liable for the violent hate that deprived minorities and their supporters of their civil rights and led to the murder of Heather Heyer.
This case is a dramatic example of the rise in violent antisemitism occurring not only at the rally in Charlottesville, but across the country. Jews being attacked on the streets of New York, New Jersey, and California is a terrifying reminder of the work still necessary toward ending antisemitism.
Addressing antisemitism is an enormous endeavor and must include efforts not only by the Jewish community, but by all elected officials, and civic and faith leaders. This must be bipartisan in nature, with both parties standing up unequivocally against bigotry and discrimination in all forms.
Bipartisanship requires agreement or cooperation between two political parties that usually oppose each other’s policies. Members of both parties must condemn antisemitism not only in the other party, but within their own. There are examples of elected leaders in both parties engaging in damaging and dangerous antisemitic rhetoric. Often, elected officials are quick to condemn the other party for engaging in this way, but hesitant to address it withing their own party.
Recently, Michael Bloomberg gave a speech to the Jewish community of New York. He called upon Jews and leaders in both parties to call out antisemitism, and to make it a truly bipartisan effort. “Fragmenting the Jewish community along partisan lines only serves antisemites. This is a tactic designed to keep Jews in both parties quiet and force us to tolerate what they deem to be acceptable levels of antisemitism. We need to make clear: There is no acceptable level of antisemitism – just as there is not acceptable form of racism, ethnic hatred, or religious intolerance, towards any group.”
On January 27th, the No Hate in Our State event will challenge elected officials in both parties to act against antisemitism and the racism and bigotry that grows from it and damages us all. This begins by standing against it in all forms and calling it out within their own parities and constituencies. This event will be a continuation of the Shine a Light initiative designed by the Jewish Federations of North America to highlight how modern forms of antisemitism persist all around us, to spotlight it, and to take steps to respond, no matter where we are: at work, in school, or online. It will be an opportunity to stand with and for each other in this work, and to show that we are stronger together.