By Eric M. Robbins as originally featured in the Atlanta Journal Constitution
One of the most dangerous undercurrents in the midterm elections was the rise in antisemitic rhetoric by some political candidates. In a country where we have witnessed celebrities like Ye (Kanye West) and athletes like Kyrie Irving publicly attacking Jewish people, it is sad to see some of our political figures and public officials continue to fail to condemn those actions and call out racists and those who propagate hate.
In the past few years, we have experienced the mainstreaming of antisemitism — from the Charlottesville rally to, horrifically, shootings in Pittsburgh and Dallas. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has played a leading role in the fight against antisemitism, recently reported that antisemitic incidents in the metro Atlanta area have doubled in 2022 from 2021.
According to the ADL, which fights all forms of antisemitism and bias, there is particular concern on college campuses, where there were 359 antisemitism incidents during the 2021-2022 school year. Indeed, during this year’s annual University of Georgia versus University of Florida football game, the words “Kanye is right about the Jews” were projected on the side of the stadium and on other buildings in downtown Jacksonville, Fla.
Antisemitism is being keenly felt on college and university campuses. College students report that anti-Zionism on campuses is rampant and that non-Jewish students conflate their feelings about the Israeli government with their feelings about their Jewish classmates.
Indeed, Jewish students are not only facing more prejudice from fellow students, but in some cases from faculty.
In September, it was reported that the University of Vermont is under investigation by the U.S. Department of Education after a teaching assistant threatened to give Zionist students lower grades.
In an effort to help combat the increase of antisemitism on college campuses, particularly in Georgia, the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta has partnered with the Hillels of Georgia, part of Hillel International, the largest Jewish campus organization in the world. Hillel gives Jewish students a community on campus and tools to help them better address antisemitism from their peers. The Hillels of Georgia immediately reached out to officials at both the University of Georgia and the University of Florida following the incident at the football game to help mitigate the situation’s impact at both schools.
Combating antisemitism is a community effort and something that the Federation cannot do alone. We rely on our partners like the American Jewish Committee to engage with ethnic, religious and political leadership. We need the Anti-Defamation League to work with law enforcement as well as provide a host of education services and research resources that track extremist groups, ideologues and hate on digital platforms.
The Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta meets regularly with leaders of Atlanta’s faith communities, and the Atlanta Rabbinical Association helps to inform our broader Jewish community.
Our ability to work together to advance this mission of ridding the world of antisemitism is important for our broader community.
The Federation also helps to fund the Jewish Agency for Israel’s Israel Campus Fellows program, which brings Israeli young adults to work on university and college campuses in the United States. Through this initiative, more Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are exposed to Israeli people to help diminish stereotypes and foster increased personal relationships with the people of Israel.
In partnership with the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, the Federation’s Community-Wide Security Program helps protect the entire Atlanta Jewish community, including schools, camps, synagogues and other local Jewish organizations.
This year, the, Federation helped local organizations secure $2.3 million in security enhancements.
The Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) is an initiative through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). It provides support for physical security enhancements and activities, including planning and training, to nonprofit organizations that are at high risk of terrorist attack due to their ideology, beliefs or mission.
Jewish people are vibrant, diverse and strong, having overcome obstacles and survived tumultuous times. We are a part of the fabric of life in Atlanta and across the country and we are passionate Americans and believers in our democracy.
History continues to teach us, as Abraham Lincoln said long ago, that our country will not stand if it is divided. Hate for one group doesn’t just impact its members, it can and will tear us all down.
Stand with us to fight antisemitism and prejudice and hatred. Now is the time to rally together to protect the freedoms we all love as Americans, for each and every one of us.