Marc B. Terrill | Special to the JT
For many of us born after World War II, rampant antisemitism seemed like something from the past. We believed that the horrors of the Holocaust and the brutal murder of 6 million Jews was a turning point, and the phrase “Never Again” became part of our lexicon.
Yet less than 80 years after the Holocaust, antisemitism has once again emerged and it is very, very real. And very, very frightening.
Jewish tropes and Holocaust denial is all over social media. Racial slurs and antisemitic graffiti have become commonplace throughout our country. College students are beginning to feel unsafe — the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the Brandeis Center reported that one in three Jewish students on a college campus experienced antisemitism last year.
And violence in synagogues like Colleyville, Texas; Chabad of Poway, Calif.; and the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa., where my family lost beloved cousins, shakes us to the core.
According to the ADL’s annual audit of antisemitism, incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021. Unfortunately, there is no reason to suspect these numbers will fall. I would venture to guess that we will see an increase and a new high in 2022.
For the second year now, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore has joined other federations around the country and national corporations throughout December to “Shine a Light on Antisemitism.” Drawing from the story of Chanukah, the eight-day “Festival of Lights,” the national initiative is designed to champion the message that light can dispel darkness and hatred.
Through public communications, education and more, we called out antisemitism this month. Even though December is almost over, it doesn’t mean that our efforts can stop. Combating antisemitism takes time and resources. Unfortunately, it is not going away anytime soon.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS IS CORE TO OUR AGENDA
Recognizing that if we want to change the narrative and wipe out antisemitism and hate, we must begin at the grassroots level. Hate often comes from ignorance. That is why we need to build relationships through conversations across racial, ethnic and faith lines — conversations that help dispel misunderstandings and command mutual respect.
Over the years, The Associated and its system of agencies have been at the forefront of this work. We’ve engaged in conversations among neighbors in northwest Baltimore through our agency, CHAI. We’ve held dialogues for community members led by faith-based leaders and have brought antisemitism education to local businesses, thanks to the leadership of our Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC).
Building relationships is core to our agenda, and we are also fortunate to have developed strong ties with political and faith-based leaders who stand with us in solidarity against antisemitism and hate. Just last year, when several Jewish cemeteries were vandalized with hate symbols, they joined with us in a rally to promote unity.
Concurrently, our agencies, in addition to the BJC and the Jewish Museum of Maryland, facilitate teacher workshops every year to help Maryland’s public and private educators effectively teach about the Holocaust, hate and intolerance. In the past two years, they have engaged nearly 200 teachers across the state.
This, along with our other educational work, has become a critical component of our efforts as surveys have found that the younger generation is severely lacking in knowledge about the Holocaust. A 2018 survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany found that 41% of millennial and Gen Z respondents believe that 2 million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust. And no fewer than 11% of millennial and Gen Z respondents believe Jews caused the Holocaust.
A SAMPLING OF THE WORK WE ARE DOING
In addition, we are committed to the security of our Jewish community, working with our state and federal legislators to pass hate-crimes legislation and secure critical funding to protect our Jewish organizations.
Last year, we received more than $4 million in federal grants for Jewish institutions in Greater Baltimore and $7 million in state grants for religious institutions, schools and child-care centers at risk of hate crimes.
This is just a sampling of the work we are doing to combat antisemitism.
As antisemitism continues to cast an ugly shadow on our country, it is our job to continue to inform, advocate and educate if we want to eradicate this scourge of hate.
If you or someone you know has experienced antisemitism, go to: associated.org/reporthate to report the incident.
Marc B. Terrill is the president of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore.