On Shavuot: Gun Violence Awareness Day Participants do ‘Chalk Over Hate’
To fight the hate underlying mass shootings, hundreds took to the streets of America armed only with chalk. The campaign – ‘Chalk Over Hate’ – launched on the eve of Shavuot and on the National Day of Gun Violence Awareness, Friday June 3rd, and was organized by the Israeli non-profit, Artists 4 Israel. Over 900 participants across the country and locally at the JCC of Mid- Westchester, have committed to transform sidewalks across America.
World famous pavement artists Anat Ronen and Chelsea Ritter-Soronen created two murals in DC in front of the the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center [1529 16th St. NW, Washington DC] on Wednesday and Thursday evenings before an official unveiling on Friday, June 3.
In addition to National Gun Violence Awareness Day, the weekend of June 3 was the Jewish holiday of Shavuot which commemorates the giving of the Torah.
Chalk Over Hate is an initiative of Artists 4 Israel, an international coalition of artists who create strikingly beautiful murals promoting peace in places where the population has been harmed by terrorism or war, including the rocket strike zone in Israel just outside the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip or the border of Syria when it was in the midst of civil war.
Over 900 participants across the country committed to join Artists 4 Israel on National Gun Violence Awareness Day and Shavuot weekend to transform sidewalks across America. All projects were tagged with ‘#ChalkOverHate.’
Chalk Over Hate is committed to combating ideologies of hate of all kinds which often become intermingled. Antisemitism has been shown to be a risk factor for violence not just against Jews but many other minorities, as well.
The New York shooter, Payton Gendron, murdered primarily Black victims in the Tops market in Buffalo, but he was radicalized by an antisemitic conspiracy theory called ‘the Great Replacement’ which purports Jews are bringing in illegal immigrants and assisting American minority groups in a plot to replace white Americans.
“The shooter who murdered ten people in the Tops Supermarket in Buffalo was clearly targeting Black individuals and his vicious act was born from hate directed against many communities. His gun had neo-Nazi codes on it and his 180-page internet manifesto focused in large part on conspiracy theories about Jews,” says Craig Dershowitz, CEO of Artists 4 Israel. “Antisemitic vandalism against property often is only the beginning of a cycle of hate that culminates in violence against people,” says Dershowitz.
While the motive of the Texas school shooter Salvador Ramos so far remains unknown, both the Buffalo and Texas shooters shared similar traits. Both were 18 years-old, both spent countless hours online during the pandemic, and both bought AR-15 style assault rifles as soon as they legally could upon turning 18. It is easily conceivable that they also were both exposed to similar online antisemitic conspiracy theories. Research shows people radicalized by antisemitism often move in more violent directions – ranging from antisemitic vandalism all the way to mass shootings.
The goal of Chalk Over Hate was to create more positive visuals in one day than the negative visuals created in antisemitic hate crimes over all of the last year. In 2021 the ADL counted 853 unique cases of vandalism such as Nazi symbols and other anti-Jewish messages defacing buildings, homes, schools and houses of worship.
Chalk is a great medium because it is cheap, easy to obtain, and allows anyone to participate no matter their age. And unlike the spray paint most often used in the anti-Jewish vandalism surging across the country, there is no need to paint over chalk. It simply washes away with the rain.
Those who participated include multiple Jewish Community Centers, Jewish arts groups, organizations fighting antisemitism as well as multi-faith and multicultural groups that make up the fabric of our shared civil society.
In addition to being National Gun Violence Awareness Day, this year the Jewish holiday of Shavuot also fell on June 3rd. This is the day that Jews celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after the exodus from Egypt.