At a recent event at Howard Community College, Matthew Berger emphasized the importance of allyship in fighting antisemitism.
Speaking to a crowd of 150 people at Howard Community College’s Smith Theater on Sept. 20, Berger — executive director for the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism and a close friend of the foundation’s founder Robert Kraft — discussed FCAS’s blue square campaign and how the organization is reaching out to allies to combat
“We want everyone to be a part of the fight against Jewish hate,” Berger said.
According to Berger, FCAS has partnered with 206 organizations in civil rights, government, education, sports, labor, religion and more, in addition to creating four widely disseminated commercials and aggressive ad campaigns on and offline. The commercials and ads feature the iconic Stand Up to Jewish Hate blue square, which takes up 2.4% of the screen or page, symbolizing how Jews make up 2.4% of the U.S. population. Despite that number, 55% of religious hate crimes target Jews.
The campaigns have been seen more than 15 billion times over 10 weeks, Berger said.
“There’s so much that needs to be done [to combat antisemitism], but awareness is the first step,” Berger said.
Awareness of the blue square, the campaign’s symbol, is building, according to Berger.
Berger shared some of the results from a survey conducted by FCAS to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign’s efforts.
One area measured by the survey was awareness of recent events regarding antisemitism. FCAS compared the numbers between those who hadn’t seen any FCAS ads with those who had seen at least one FCAS ad.
The campaign primarily targeted the 45% of Americans classified as “apathetics” by FCAS. “Apathetics,” according to FCAS, are adults who are not leaning toward either allyship or hatred when it comes to antisemitism. Results showed that people who had seen the ads were much more aware of recent antisemitic events.
“How do you solve a problem if most people don’t think it’s a problem?” Berger asked the audience.
The FCAS campaign has included four ads, which Berger played for the audience, that put faces and names to Jewish experiences around antisemitism and showed others standing with Jews against hate.
In one ad, a man named Tony removed antisemitic graffiti from his Jewish neighbor’s house. In another, a father called out his son’s recent behavior online.
“Each of the ads are focused on someone or a group of people that are not Jewish but see hate, see antisemitism and take action,” Berger said. “Each of the ads shows that the way you speak up and speak out against antisemitism is the same way that you would speak out against any other hatred or intolerance that you saw in your community.”
But the campaign is more than a model for others, Berger said. It’s also a conversation starter, which is where the iconic blue square has a big part to play.
Ahead of Rosh Hashanah, FCAS shipped boxes of blue square pins to provide every synagogue with pins to share over the holiday. The pins also made appearances in 1 million boxes of shoes shipped by Adidas.
“When I wear the blue square, people come up to me and ask me, ‘What is that? What does it mean?’ and I’m able to launch a conversation with them about antisemitism,” Berger said. “We know that the Jewish community has a unique role to play in being a bridge to the rest of our country about antisemitism.”