The statistics of domestic antisemitic acts are grimmer with each passing year. A new report from the Anti-Defamation League reveals that these acts of Jewish hate increased 36% in 2022. That translates to the highest level of antisemitism since the ADL began auditing these incidents in 1979. The report also comes as the FBI and human rights groups track a notable increase in domestic hate crimes.  

Are we American Jews in an unprecedented struggle for our very lives? The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS) has taken up the cause to confront and counter antisemitism. Boston philanthropist and social justice activist Robert Kraft founded the organization in 2019 and considers its work an important part of his legacy of proactively advocating for and protecting Jewish communities. Matt Berger, executive director of FCAS, recently spoke to us about the foundation’s new Stand Up to Jewish Hate campaign and its national impact. 

Antisemitism has been around for a long time—some call it the oldest form of hate. Why now? What is FCAS doing differently? 

There’s a growing awareness that antisemitism is a problem that isn’t going away, and that requires a long-term strategic focus that we bring to the table. We see ourselves as innovators—an organization that can do things differently and try new strategies, and that is a large part of the motivation for our new Stand Up to Jewish Hate campaign. Our “command center” is where we monitor antisemitism, particularly on social media platforms, in real time, and share the information with our colleagues and partners. Social media has sped up antisemitism and hate, and we need to be faster in analyzing and responding to it.   

What new strategies is FCAS deploying to combat antisemitism?  

#StandUpToJewishHate and the blue square emoji are innovative tools to spread our message of awareness. FCAS went through a strategic planning process in 2022. One of the main things that came out of that process was a recognition that nobody was focused on engaging non-Jews and teaching them what antisemitism is and what it looks like today across the country. We are in a unique position to be able to inform people at scale. That intelligence and our findings have shaped this new campaign. 

FCAS was founded in 2019 amid organizations doing similar work. Where is the organization’s place in that landscape, and how has it been received?   

We partner with those organizations, like the Anti-Defamation League, with Jewish federations and with a wide range of Jewish groups, and we see ourselves as adding value to the work they’re doing. That means sharing our insights and learnings from our command center. That means including them in our #StandUpToJewishHate campaign and finding ways to work together toward shared goals. Since launching the campaign, we’ve been heartened by the number of non-Jewish organizations that have come to the table. Leaders outside the Jewish community recognize that antisemitism is growing and requires engagement beyond the Jewish community. If we want to address the challenges of racism, gender inequality and other types of hate in our society, we have to address antisemitism at the same time. 

How do you track antisemitism on social platforms?  

We use a technology called BrandWatch, which is designed to measure specific brands on social media. For example, if you are with Coca-Cola, you will want to know every time that Coke is mentioned on social media. You would also want to know every time Pepsi is mentioned on social media so you can see how your competition is being talked about. We’ve taken that technology and use it to monitor and research terms that are used by people who are antisemitic and by those who are fighting antisemitism and hate on social media. So, we can constantly monitor over 300 million sources of information. From that, we see the trends and share those insights with our partners and users. With our command center, we can look at the complete picture, understand the trends and conversations happening across social media platforms, and collectively educate and engage people about what hate looks like on social media. 

How has the general population—Jews and non-Jews—responded to learning that antisemitism is on the rise?   

Our research found that more than half of Americans don’t think antisemitism is a current problem. Nearly half of Americans believe that Jews alone can address and solve antisemitism in their communities. But we’re only 2.4% of the American population. What we’ve also come to understand is that people don’t think about countering antisemitism in the same way they feel about the fight for racial justice, gender equality and related issues. Many Americans are not actively ignoring antisemitism. They just don’t know it’s something they should be caring about. That’s why our #StandUpToJewishHate campaign focuses on that audience.  

How have Boston’s Jewish communities responded to the foundation? Have they made use of its resources? Have they attended adjacent programs?  

To have the impact we want, we need everyone in the Jewish community to share #StandUpToJewishHate’s message with their networks and spark conversations with people outside the Jewish community. Jewish federations and local Jewish communities are the gateways to reaching those people. CJP has been an important partner. They have shared FCAS and #StandUpToJewishHate’s message in Boston’s Jewish community and beyond. We’re thankful they are the local messengers of the Stand Up to Jewish Hate campaign and are encouraging everyone—Jewish and non-Jewish—in Boston to address antisemitism in our communities and country. 

How does the blue square work?  

We’re encouraging people to use the blue square—an emoji that is already on their phones—on social media anytime they’re talking about antisemitism and to proactively post the blue square to tell their network they care about the fight against hate and intolerance. Communities nationwide, including those in Boston, have responded overwhelmingly positively to it. We can track how it’s used on social media and have received enormously strong support from celebrity influencers like Tom Brady, Sarah Paulson, Julian Edelman and Meek Mill. Mayors and governors have posted it to express their support and focus on fighting antisemitism. Our commercials are shared across social media platforms. It’s helpful for people in the Jewish community to see that we are not fighting and addressing antisemitism in our communities alone. We have allies who are standing up with us.  

Are we making an impact?  

We build new allies every time we raise awareness and educate more people. And by spreading our message and telling people what antisemitism looks like today, we are making it easier for all the conversations that need to happen with partner organizations, lawmakers and university administrators to impact change and address antisemitism at the macro level. 

Is there anything else you would like to add? 

To continue to spread awareness about antisemitism and turn that awareness into a movement, we really want everyone, both within the Jewish community and outside, to post and share the blue square emoji on their social media accounts and become part of the community that will stand up to Jewish hate.