6 things you can do to combat antisemitism

By Carl Zebrowski

Editor of Hakol

Panelists at the Summit for Antisemitism did more than update the crowd on the current state of antisemitism and what’s being done to address the problem. Their coverage of the day’s topics can be pared down to a to-do list for the defense. Here are some things you and your businesses and organizations can work on now:

1. Be Aware
Know what to look for. There are more possibilities than you may think. Consider the number 18, for example. You know it as a symbol of good luck. But it’s also a symbol for Adolf Hitler — the 1 stands for A and the 8 for H, based on the letters’ places in the alphabet. Hate groups are no doubt proud of themselves for coopting the good luck symbol for their own ends, if they realize it. 18 still means luck, of course, but not if it’s spray-painted on a synagogue door. To learn about more hate symbols you may not know, visit the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbols web page at adl.org/resources/hate-symbols/search.

Also, pay attention to trends. “What we see in the bigger cities makes its way to the smaller communities,” said Aaron Gorodzinsky of the Jewish Federation. “We know what’s coming.”

2. Prepare
“You can’t build the organizations and systems you need when you need them,” said Adam Teitelbaum, associate vice president of public affairs for the Jewish Federations of North America. Make sure your organizations are building relationships with other groups, improving security measures and training their people in advance on what to do right now and what to do if the unthinkable happens.  

3. Report, Report, Report
That exact wording came from Lieutenant William Slaton of the Pennsylvania State Police. People tend to keep quiet about incidents that they’ve witnessed, sometimes uncertain whether an act was worthy of follow-up. A national survey of Hillels concluded that about two-thirds of those who experienced an antisemitic act did not report it. “If you’re unsure,” Slaton said, “just report it to law enforcement.” If the incident is an emergency or just happened, call 911. If not, you can report it to the ADL at adl.org/report-incident.

Once you report the incident to authorities, organizations ranging from the ADL to local police to the FBI will work together as necessary to investigate and take further action. Don’t follow up your reporting by unnecessarily making the news public. “There’s a tendency to post it on your social media,” said Andrew Goretsky of the ADL. “Don’t do that. We don’t want to give them any more publicity.”

4. Lobby Local
“I cannot emphasize enough how much of this is based on local participation,” Teitelbaum said. Critical decisions on legislation, law enforcement, security funding and education all start there, yet too many efforts focus on the national.

So, attend local school board meetings and voice needs and concerns. Bad things can happen at the school board level, with elected members potentially blocking education efforts and worse. Experience shows that attitudes and actions there spread to the state and national levels.

Also, call your various elected representatives to press for legislative action. “Hearing from constituents directly is one of the most impactful things,” said U.S. Rep. Susan Wild.

5. Educate
Teach your kids about the Holocaust, antisemitism and hate crimes. “Go home today and have a conversation with the younger people in your life,” Teitelbaum said. “When we stand on the shoulders of the generation before us, we can see a future the previous generation couldn’t. And the generations after us are standing on our shoulders.”

See that your schools are teaching the other kids about those things too. And remember that they’ll require informational and physical resources to do that. “It’s our responsibility to make sure the schools have what they need,” Gorodzinsky said.

6. Come Together
“Unless everybody is safe, no one’s safe,” said Robin Schatz, director of government affairs for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Jewish institutions are better prepared than others, Gorodzinsky said, so they can guide others on what actions to take and how to improve security. “We have guards. We have cameras,” he said. “The bad guys don’t just go home and have a cup of coffee. They go to the next available church.”