Political, religious groups join together in Philly to ‘shine a light’ on antisemitism

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (center), CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Michael Balaban, and Councilmember Allan Domb (right) light a Hanukkah menorah

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney (center), CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia Michael Balaban, and Councilmember Allan Domb (right) light a Hanukkah menorah. (City of Philadelphia)

Political and religious groups joined together in Philadelphia to raise awareness about antisemitism on Tuesday, the third day of the Jewish festival of Hanukkah.

It’s part of the national “shine a light” initiative featuring workshops and other events intended to spur conversations about how to fight antisemitism and other forms of hate.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey are among the five states with the most antisemitic incidents recorded in 2020, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s most recent annual audit.

“Hate is hate, and people rarely pick one group to hate,” said Shira Goodman, the ADL’s regional director, noting that the group has some evidence that fewer people are harboring antisemitic sentiments.

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“ADL also measures antisemitic attitudes every few years, and we test agreement with hateful stereotypes about Jews. And over the decades that we’ve done this, the numbers have gone down,” she said.

However, Goodman said that still means “millions and millions” of people are still harboring hate.

Michael Balaban, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, said the number of hate crimes reported in the United States last year rose to its highest levels in more than a decade, with the FBI reporting 7,759 hate crimes.

“Now, these were only the hate crimes that were reported, and we know so many more go unreported” he said. “Attacks on the Jewish community made up over 58% of the religiously motivated hate crimes, with a total of over 2,024 antisemitic incidents reported.”

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Among those also speaking out was State Sen. Sharif Street.

“We stand up because standing up against bigotry and hate is part of what has made this country the best it can be,” he said. “Americans are at their best when we are standing up for one another.”

“Those of us who are Muslim like me, or Christian, must stand up against antisemitism. It’s essential that people understand that the Jewish community is not alone.”

Mayor Jim Kenney also sent a strong message.

“We value and celebrate our diversity, and we will never tolerate discrimination, hate, or bullying of any kind. As mayor, I can assure you that Philadelphia will always be a welcoming city to everyone, no matter what they look like or where they come from or how they worship.”

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