No Hate in Our States Means Celebrating Jewish American Heritage Month
By Myra Clark-Siegel, Director, AJC Westchester/Fairfield
Recently, I passed a church with a large sign outside that read, “We’re open! Come in!” Ironically, in 2023, that same signage could be posted outside any house of worship except a synagogue. Given the rise of violence towards Jews across the United States, synagogues now must have security procedures rivaling that of any airport.
For too many American Jews, being Jewish no longer feels as safe as it once did.
The recently released, ground-breaking AJC State of Antisemitism in America Report highlights the lived experiences of American Jews today. Based on one of the largest-ever combined national surveys of American Jews and the U.S. general public, the report demonstrates the disturbing impact that rising hatred of Jews has on America’s Jewish community.
Indeed, one of the most significant findings is that over four in ten American Jews feel less secure than last year. That concern increased by 10 percentage points from 2021, in large part to the rise in antisemitic attacks, crimes, and violence; and how acceptable and normalized antisemitism and racism have become.
Moreover, nearly four in 10 American Jews have changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism: avoiding publicly wearing, carrying, or displaying things that might identify them as Jewish
And while these findings and the lived Jewish experience is concerning, there are also bright spots, particularly with respect to high school and college students, who often are on the front lines when it comes to dealing with antisemitism and anti-Israel sentiments and hatred.
And while we must call out hatred against the Jewish community as we do any hatred or racism, there is good news as well.
The good news: our friends and colleagues want to be upstanders and allies with the Jewish community. AJC’s Call to Action provides these tools and resources for our elected officials, school administrators, interfaith/intergroup partners, corporate leaders, and others to be partners and upstanders. We know that the hatred that begins with the Jewish community does not end there, and our partners know that we stand strong with them through our AJC Community of Conscience.
More good news: AJC’s Leaders for Tomorrow or LFT high-school advocacy program is now open for applications for our 2023-24 cohort. This year, 30 high school 10th, 11th, and 12th graders are part of our LFT program from across Westchester and CT: Reform, Orthodox, Conservative, private, and public high schools, they represent our broad and diverse community and they are strong, proud, Jewish, and pro-Israel leaders. Our applications are now open for our Fall cohort.
Even more good news: May is Jewish American Heritage Month,which celebrates Jewish Americans and encourages all Americans to learn more about the Jewish community and its contributions to society. At a time when American Jews are feeling vulnerable amidst a rise in antisemitism, we at AJC cannot think of a more important time to celebrate the contributions of Jews to our society.
There are so many ways to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month together in May and we hope you will join us!
The best news: AJC will celebrate Israel’s miraculous 75th anniversary at our Global Forum IN Israel June 11-14. If you want to learn more about Israel’s diversity, democracy, and complexity, please join us at AJC Global Forum. Special rates for college students, young professionals, and rabbis are available.
Myra Clark-Siegel is AJC Westchester/Fairfield regional director. To join our efforts: email@example.com.