‘Shine a Light’ campaign heightens awareness of antisemitism


As part of a nationwide initiative spearheaded by the Jewish Federations of North America, The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore is working to educate the public about antisemitism. “Shine a Light on Antisemitism” is the latest effort to warn people about antisemitic harassment in their communities, why it happens and what they can do to stop it.

Those involved with the “Shine a Light” program clean up the area around the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial as part of an effort to draw awareness to a national uptick in antisemitism. (Courtesy of Emily Braverman Goodman)

In 2020, The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council conducted an evaluation of measures meant to prevent antisemitism in the community, assessing which methods worked and which did not. Since then, they have expanded their efforts, hoping to inspire people through education, advocacy, and preparing for and responding to conflict.

The effort is taking place in December to coincide with Chanukah, with the first such measures having taken place in 2021. This year, Baltimore City Hall will be lit up in blue and yellow on the first night of Chanukah to both celebrate the holiday and spread awareness about the campaign.

“Fighting antisemitism is a year-round job,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the Baltimore Jewish Council. “But we wanted to tie this to the Chanukah holiday and the idea of light on antisemitism. Last year was the first year we did it, but this year, it feels especially necessary because of all this talk we’ve been seeing about the normalization of antisemitism.”

The Associated is currently maintaining a page on its site that highlights antisemitism-related statistics, including how frequently Jewish people experience such incidents, coupled with links to resources for people who want to battle such behavior.

“As a team, we’re collectively working to share information about antisemitism, share statistics that are relevant to the community and to rising antisemitism in the country as a whole, to share beyond the Jewish community itself,” stated Emily Braverman Goodman, the director of Holocaust and countering antisemitism programming at the Baltimore Jewish Council. The BJC is currently working to publish several op-eds in local publications, including The Baltimore Sun, to increase the issue’s visibility and inform non-Jews in the community. Many Associated-produced materials will also be focusing on antisemitism.

Libit said that with the rise of antisemitic statements made by public officials and celebrities, educational programs like “Shine a Light” are more important than ever.
As he noted, “we just saw a former president sit down and dine with open antisemites,” referring to Donald Trump’s dinner in Florida with musician Kanye (“Ye”) West and Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, also a self-proclaimed white supremacist and Christian nationalist. “It’s been an incredibly difficult year to see these acts of antisemitism and to see how casually people descend into antisemitic tropes.

“Now, sometimes it’s out of ignorance, and it’s a question of us educating and reaching out,” he continued. “And sometimes, it’s a deeper ideology. I’ve seen lots of cases where the antisemitism we see comes from not a place of hate but a place of ignorance. And in those cases, we can do better and help to educate and stand against hate.”

‘Shake people out of their complacency’

Besides publishing educational materials and articles, the “Shine a Light” program is focused on community action and activism. For example, the Baltimore Jewish Council is participating in legislative work and plans to advocate for stronger protections against hate crimes as early as January.

It has also organized local events, such as a clean-up of the area around the Baltimore Holocaust Memorial, in addition to a luncheon at Beth El Congregation in Pikesville meant to highlight the issue of antisemitism.

“It’s so important that this information goes beyond the Jewish community,” said Goodman. “We are obviously very aware of the recent rise in antisemitism, but a lot of non-Jews don’t realize that this is something that has been increasing over the past several years, beyond the last month or so.”

“I hope to shake people out of their complacency and out of their fatigue,” said Libit of his ultimate goals with the “Shine a Light” program. “Hate must be called out wherever you see it. Wherever you experience it, whenever you see someone else being subjected to it, we can’t let it go unchecked. And we have to be willing to stand up and speak out.”

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