Amidst rising antisemitism and antisemitic rhetoric in the news and online, The Jewish Federation and Jewish Foundation of Nashville and Middle Tennessee is harnessing the power of the collective. On January 27th, neighbors from throughout Nashville, including business, academic, education, faith, and elected leaders, are joining together to send the message that there can be “No Hate in Our State.” Federation CEO Eric Stillman says, “We are bringing together the broader, general community to shine a light on antisemitism.” The event is the result of the work of The Federation’s Task Force on Israel and Domestic Antisemitism. Leslie Kirby is the task force’s Chair. She says it is important for everyone to join together to stop hatred in all its forms, “We are asking our neighbors to be upstanders, rather than bystanders. To learn to recognize antisemitism, to not use antisemitic tropes themselves, and to call out those who do.”
Particularly alarming, according to Kirby, is the rising number of antisemitic incidents in the local schools. Dr. Greg Jones, President of Belmont University, says schools, and school districts, have a unique opportunity to reach young people during their formative years. “We need to emphasize the importance of civic virtue and the importance of inclusion, embrace, and welcome in all they do” he says. Belmont University has long worked to build bridges with Nashville’s local Jewish Community, and Jones says it is time to go even further. “We aim to be a leader in helping to re-weave our social fabric, and this event is a wonderful opportunity to contribute toward that re-weaving.”
The last few years have seen violent antisemitsm playing out nationwide. Against the backdrop of the COVID19 pandemic, many incidents have been carried out digitally. According to the Anti-Defamation League, reports of online harassment have remained roughly the same for the last three years, despite promises of self-regulation by technology companies. Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN), who will be speaking at the January 27th event, says hatred in any form is its own type of virus. “The worst virus is antisemitism, and if we don’t disinfect our society, it will spread.” He attributes the rise in antisemitism, and other forms of hatred, to demagogues in America and around the world. “When we objectify and de-humanize the other, that’s when hatred spreads.” He says political polarization, particularly around COVID19 and COVID19 vaccines, is stirring people up, leading to increased acts of hate. He believes Nashville coming together for events like this upcoming one on January 27th is what is needed, “All of America needs to work to stop it.”
At press time, Governor Bill Lee is confirmed to speak at the event, along with Rabbi Joshua Kullock from West End Synagogue and Seth Bernstein, CEO of Alliance Bernstein, and there are others from faith communities, and social justice organizations who will be in attendance. Belmont President Dr. Greg Jones, says it is important to have the support of the non-Jewish community in the fight against antisemitism, “We need to have a clear voice about the power of love, and we need to model that whenever we have the opportunity to do so.”
The event begins at 5:00pm at War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville and follows with a candlelight vigil at 5:45 at Legislative Plaza. WKRN News Channel 2 will broadcast live from the event. For information, contact Eric Stillman at firstname.lastname@example.org.