Cardinal joins local leaders pledging to fight antisemitism
BOSTON -- The day after the Celtics won against the Philadelphia 76ers, a different kind of gathering took place outside TD Garden. On May 15, a number of city, state, and religious leaders, including Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, gathered at North Station for a press conference marking the launch of a campaign to "Face Jewish Hate," part of a larger effort to combat antisemitism.
The campaign highlights the stories of Jewish residents of Greater Boston who have been victims of antisemitic acts, ranging from hateful messages to physical attacks. Some of these advertisements are being displayed on the digital billboards outside North Station, directing viewers to FaceJewishHate.org to learn more about the subjects' stories.
This education and mobilization campaign by Combined Jewish Philanthropies (CJP) is an extension of a national campaign by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS).
The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism's national campaign uses the blue square emoji as a unifying symbol of support, calling on people to #StandUpToJewishHate.
A new report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) showed that antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts increased by over 40 percent from 2021 to 2022. At the press conference, Rabbi Ron Fish, Eastern Division Director of Antisemitism Education and Advocacy at the ADL, said that Massachusetts ranked the sixth state with the highest rate of antisemitic acts.
In his remarks, Cardinal O'Malley shared that he had met a few weeks earlier with several leaders of the Jewish community in order to plan an event that could bring Jews and Catholics together. He said it was "very distressing" to hear from them about the resurgence of antisemitism in the U.S. He said he was "horrified" to hear how synagogues' security measures may include having locked doors and armed guards during services.
He spoke about Pope Francis' encyclical "Fratelli Tutti," which means "Brothers and Sisters All."
"He uses that phrase from St. Francis of Assisi, who saw his mission as being a universal brother, calling people together in one family. This is our strength," Cardinal O'Malley said.
He also cited the Jewish principle of "tikkun olam," or "repairing the world."
"The world will be repaired only when we come together as a family to do that," he said.
Along with Cardinal O'Malley, others present for the press conference were Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey; Boston Mayor Michelle Wu; Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell; Massachusetts State Treasurer and Receiver General Deborah Goldberg; New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, founder of the FCAS; and Jeremy Burton, CEO of Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
Kraft cited recent incidents of antisemitism in the U.S., which he said seems "reminiscent" of late 1930s Germany as Nazi symbols and slogans are used.
He pointed out that while about 2 percent of Americans are Jewish, they are the target of over 50 percent of religious hate crimes.
"We need everyone to stand up and condemn all forms of hate," Kraft said.
He added that hate is "infectious," and that solidarity is needed to stop its spread.
"We need everyone, all Americans from all backgrounds and all communities, to stand arm in arm with us, as we're doing here today, to stop hate and create a better environment for generations to come," he said.
Two of those featured in the Face Jewish Hate campaign were also present: Dr. Jeremy Schiller, a public health official from Salem, who was a target of antisemitic messages while helping to institute coronavirus mitigation measures; and Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who was stabbed eight times outside a Jewish day school in Brighton in July 2021.
"This campaign tells the human story, the real impact that hate has on our friends and our neighbors," Rabbi Marc Baker, the president and CEO of CJP, said.
He added that the campaign is "also about action," which is why CJP was also launching a resource hub at FaceJewishHate.org to empower people to learn more, share resources, and report incidents of antisemitism.
"Thank you to every person who speaks up and stands up. That is what this moment calls for. That's what this campaign is all about," Rabbi Baker said.