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Anti-hate experts call on feds to tackle rising anti-Semitism

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Last week, Scott Richman did something unusual while preparing for Rosh Hashanah services at his synagogue. He draped a device with a panic button around his neck to alert authorities in case the unimaginable happened.

“Like so many congregants, I spent the service distracted by fear that our synagogue might be next – the next Colleyville, the following Jersey City, the following Tree of lifesaid Richman, referring to violent anti-Semitic attacks that killed 17 people and terrorized countless others in Texas, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Richman, Anti-Defamation League regional director for New Jersey and New York, joined a handful of Jewish leaders, security officials and anti-hate experts who spoke Monday at a a two-hour conference in Congress. audience in Teaneck on violent extremism, terrorism and anti-Semitic threats in New Jersey.

“As Yom Kippur begins tomorrow, I urge you to remember how these threats tear at the fabric of our communities, our democracy and our country,” Richman said. “Now! It’s time to act.”

The House Homeland Security Committee convened the hearing to raise awareness of rising extremism and brainstorm solutions after anti-Semitism hit record highs last year, both in New Jersey and in the United States.

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League filed 2,717 anti-Semitism reports nationwide, the most since it began tracking such incidents in 1979, its annual report says. Audit. In New Jersey, 370 anti-Semitic incidents were reported.

U.S. Representative Josh Gottheimer, a committee member whose district includes Teaneck, said the upsurge in hate incidents had impacted both his constituents and himself – he is a fraternity member of Rutgers University , Alpha Epsilon Psi, that someone egg last week in an act of anti-Semitism.

“I hear stories of residents who have to carry pepper spray around town and are afraid to let their children go out to play,” Gottheimer said. “That shouldn’t be the new normal.”

Rising rates of anti-Semitism affect more than the Jewish community because it’s rooted in conspiratorial thinking that separates everyone into “us and them,” warned Kenneth Stern, director of the Center for the Study of Hate at the Bard College.

“Anti-Semitism gains ground when democratic norms are threatened, endangering more than just Jews,” Stern said.

The “great replacement” narrative for white supremacists, pushed by conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson, has its roots in anti-Semitism, said Susan Corke, director of the intelligence project at the Southern Poverty Law Center.

“This racist conspiracy, which says there is a systematic worldwide effort to replace white Europeans with non-white foreign populations, provides a central framework rooted in anti-Semitic ideology for the white supremacist movement,” Corke said. “The theory has motivated many deadly terrorist attacks.”

Corke said his center has identified 26 hate and anti-government groups in New Jersey, many with anti-Semitic ideologies such as the Nation of Islam.

Testimony during the hearing covered a lot of ground, with debates on everything from whether anti-Zionism is the same as anti-Semitism, whether politicians have a duty to speak out against hate speech within their party, and whether academic freedom protects professors who weigh in on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Possible solutions

Stern suggested that policymakers impose a national service on high school students — bringing together children from different backgrounds — to increase understanding.

He also recommended following the dollar.

“As a society, we calculate the cost of many things, even potholes. But what does hate cost us? he said.

His center is currently working on an economic analysis of what hate crimes cost. He urged policy makers to include the financial impact in regular reports on hate crime statistics.

Anti-Semitism gains ground when democratic norms are threatened, endangering more than just Jews.

– Kenneth Stern, Center for the Study of Hate, Bard College

Corke agreed that expanding anti-racism education would help “inoculate young people against radicalization”.

She also urged lawmakers to fund digital literacy education and pass reforms to hold tech and social media companies accountable for misinformation and hate spreading on their platforms.

Rabbi Esther Reed, acting executive director of Rutgers Hillel, called on committee members to invest more in the security of religious institutions.

Rutgers Hillel used federal funds to put up bollards in front of his building to keep cars from crashing into the building and rear fencing to keep intruders out.

“We don’t want our institutions and facilities surrounded by security devices, but unfortunately they have to be,” Reed said. “The Jewish community needs more funding to keep us safe.

She also called on lawmakers to demand that the US Department of Education better protect the rights of Jewish students, saying “dozens” of anti-Semitism cases remain open, including one filed in 2011.

“Many other outstanding complaints are also over a year old and have yet to be investigated,” she said. “Each week that passes is another example of Jewish students’ equal opportunity rights being unprotected.”

Holly Huffnagle, U.S. director of the American Jewish Committee for Combating Antisemitism, said that with antisemitism most often occurring during election cycles, Jewish holidays and outbreaks in the Middle East, authorities should be in alert and ready to provide support to the Jewish community at such times. .

She also urged policy makers to publicly condemn anti-Semitism and avoid lumping it “with other hates and bigotry when only the Jewish community is under attack.”

Not specifically speaking out against anti-Semitism, she said, is “unhelpful and even hurtful.”

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