Jewish community centers around the United States have been forced to evacuate in recent weeks after being targeted by bomb threats. Vandals have etched and burned swastikas in public places. And on Thursday, headstones were found knocked over at a Jewish cemetery in Rochester, New York – the third such resting place to be desecrated.
In his address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Donald Trump addressed the spike in anti-Semitism, after facing criticism for letting incidents pass without comment.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, as well as last week's shooting Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.
In a recent note to members of the Jewish Community Centers of Chicago, President and CEO Alan Sataloff writes: "Most of us of a certain age can recall moments in our lifetime when we experienced anti-Semitism. These acts, big and small, physical and verbal, intentional or ignorant, are seared into our minds. We hoped, we dreamed, that it would be different for the next generation and that our children would live in a time of greater tolerance and acceptance."
"It’s very upsetting to see this increase in anti-Semitic incidents," said Shoshana Buchholz-Miller, vice president of education and exhibitions at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. "But for us as an educational institution, it’s as disturbing to see an increase in biased incidents across the board. Anti-Muslim hate groups have increased almost 200 percent since 2015. People seem to feel they have permission to speak hatefully and act hatefully."
"But," Sataloff writes, "instead of seeing a community deterred by fear and distracted by the why, we have seen our buildings fill with Jewish families — and families of all faiths and beliefs — reminding all of us what a vibrant, connected, unbreakable community truly looks like."
Buchholz-Miller says it's also important that "if someone sees or hears someone saying something unacceptable, racist, or anti-Semitic, they need to speak out, to challenge, to educate people. Sometimes it comes from ignorance. When we ignore it or hope it goes away, we’re giving it approval."
Shoshana Buchholz-Miller and Alan Sataloff join Chicago Tonight for a conversation.
Feb. 2: We remember Rabbi Herman Schaalman, a Holocaust survivor and legendary interfaith leader who late in life gave up his belief in God.
Dec. 27: Longtime religion reporter Kenneth Woodward tells the story of how American religion, culture and politics influenced each other in his latest book.
May 6, 2015: Christian Picciolini was once a neo-Nazi skinhead leader in Chicago. Today he runs an organization called Life After Hate. Jay Shefsky tells the story of Picciolini's remarkable transformation.