Our first antisemitism summit: Lawmakers, experts to gather with community

By Aaron Gorodzinsky
Director of Campaign and Security Planning
It’s not an underestimation to say that every single member of our Jewish community is more concerned than ever about antisemitism and finding solutions that will ensure that our community feels safe and supported. People want to know that our efforts to combat antisemitism are having an impact.
Every day, I meet members of our community who are frightened by the current climate in our country and by the news about attacks on the Jewish community in our nation and abroad. Even our local community has been targeted by antisemitism. There was an the incident in 
Bethlehem where four individuals walked around Christkindlmarkt wearing messages of hate on their shirts. 
At the same time, our community has received tremendous support from our elected officials at the local and state level. But that is not enough. That’s why we have spoken more and more over the last few months about standing up to antisemitism, joining the national campaign to Shine a Light on antisemitism.
Now we are inviting experts, elected officials and law enforcement partners to join our first-ever Summit to Combat Antisemitism on March 12 at Muhlenberg College. Cosponsored by the Anti-Defamation league (ADL), the summit will feature four panels of experts, each focusing on an important element of combating antisemitism. 
We will begin the summit by looking at the rise of antisemitism and extremism in Pennsylvania through presentations by the ADL Center on Extremism, the Secure Community Network (SCN) and the Pennsylvania State Police to understand where we stand today and what can we do to alter the current trend.
The second panel will bring experts from the Israel Action Network, the SCN and the ADL to talk about tracking antisemitism, about how important it is to document incidents better as part of bringing attention to the situation and of lobbying our elected officials at the state and national level to do more to protect the Jewish community with increased security funding and by enacting steeper penalties for perpetrators of antisemitic acts.
On the third panel, our elected officials and our representative from the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition will talk about what the state is doing to enact laws and provide security funding to combat antisemitism. There is a lot that can be achieved at the state level, and we want our elected officials to guide us in how to lobby more effectively, to let us know what is achievable given the laws and regulations in our state, and to give us their views on where we can expect better outcomes. Based on their feedback, we will have action items available for all attendees so we can follow up after the summit.
After a long day focused on antisemitism, the last panel is about hope. Members of the Bethlehem Interfaith Group will talk about faithful approaches to combat hate and antisemitism. The group has been meeting for a few years to find ways to work together as a community of faith to understand one another and support one another when needed. Here they will showcase what they have done.
The summit is open to everyone in the Lehigh Valley. To learn more and to RSVP to the event, visit our website at jewishlehighvalley.org/calendar or scan the QR code on page 5.