Throughout the last two years, there has been a rise in antisemitism in the country. Jewish leaders say the acts of hate are also a reflection of our democracy.
Rabbi Jay Strear, the president and CEO of Jewish Colorado, has seen it evolve firsthand.
“Not only have the historic tropes of antisemitism, bigotry racism, homophobia been allowed but the association of those behaviors have now been connected with the most horrendous violence," Rabbi Strear said.
A new report released by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) says nearly one out of every four Jews in the U.S. has been the subject to anti-Semitism over the past year.
“Here in Denver, a week or so ago, we had grotesque, disgusting antisemitic, racist, bigoted expressions spray-painted on a local high school," Rabbi Strear said.
Rabbi Joseph Black, with Temple Emanuel in Denver, Jews are being targeted across the country.
“I just heard last weekend from a friend of mine who is a rabbi is Austin, Texas. There were neo-Nazi rallies, there was a fire outside of a synagogue. At Georgetown University, a Jewish fraternity was broken into and a Tora scroll, our most sacred object, was desecrated and torn to bits," said Rabbi Black.
“What we are enduring now, I think, is a stain on democracy but it is also a call to act in our community, to rise up to values and to call out those voices and those behaviors," Rabbi Strear said.
The report also found 39% of American Jews changed their behavior in the last 12 months out of fear of antisemitism. Many have avoided things like posting online content and are removing identifiable pieces.
“I wear a Kepa every single day and I am abundantly aware of the Black man experience that he cannot step out of his skin. And so when I go into a store and I want to take my Kepa off or put a hat on to hide my identity, I think about that a lot," Rabbi Strear said.
Rabbi Strear says it’s why he always chooses to keep his identifiable items on. He knows others that also face injustices don’t have that privilege.
“When we start hiding who we are, we are allowing the racists and the haters to win," Rabbi Black said. “It is vitally important that we create allies and find things that bind us together but in the process of doing so, we have to look at who we are. And the history of white privilege, that I, as a Caucasian American Jew, have benefited from. I think it is important that I am there for the people of color in my community, and in other communities. The LGBTQ, the immigrants, the Asians, the African Americans, every different group who is targeted by hatred, we need to work together.”
The AJC is characterizing this rise in antisemitism as a severe problem in the nation.
“We need Jews and African Americans, and the full panoply of ideologies and ideas and lifestyles and behaviors and expressions of self to stand shoulder to shoulder to say this is actually America," said Rabbi Strear. “We need to be invited into the Black community, the Muslin community, the Sikh community, as do we need to continue to invite those individuals into our community. Not to agree but to raise up a level of empathy.”