When Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey spoke at the launch of Combined Jewish Philanthropies’ “Face Jewish Hate” campaign at TD Garden on Monday, May 15, she noted a powerful feature—its incorporation of accounts of individuals personally affected by antisemitism.
Some of these accounts are spotlighted on a billboard outside TD Garden, and all are fully available on the new campaign website, FaceJewishHate.org. They include Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who survived being repeatedly stabbed outside a Jewish day school in Brighton in July 2021, and Dr. Jeremy Schiller, chair of the Salem Board of Health, who endured hateful threats, including a yellow star being sent to him, after the city implemented a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for local restaurants in December 2021.
The billboard ”humanizes the problem,” Healey said. “It also lifts up the courage of survivors and inspires more to join in this fight. There are communities directly harmed by antisemitism. These are our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, parents, grandparents.” She added, “Thousands of people will see these images [on the billboard], be educated, be inspired.”
Later in the day, Healey signed a proclamation at the State House recognizing May as Jewish American Heritage Month in Massachusetts.
“It was wonderful to see so many people come together,” she said in an exclusive interview with JewishBoston, “and also so important, especially in this time now, when we see a rise in antisemitism, that we be really clear, as a state, that Massachusetts is not going to accept hate. We reject hate and antisemitism.”
The CJP campaign debuted as antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts have increased dramatically—41% from 2021 to 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League. The ADL documented 108 antisemitic incidents in Massachusetts in 2021 and 152 such incidents a year later. The latter total was the sixth-highest in the U.S. for 2022. Nationally, there were 3,697 antisemitic incidents tallied by the ADL, a historical high since the organization began keeping track of such incidents in 1979.
The campaign launch was attended by numerous civic and community leaders, from Healey to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu to CJP president and CEO Rabbi Marc Baker.
“We need to send the right message in 2023,” Wu said. “It should not be dividing us. There’s a rise in racism, antisemitism, hate. There’s a need for all of us to come together.”
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, founder of the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism (FCAS), also addressed the audience. United in their shared goal to address and fight the disturbing rise in antisemitism across Massachusetts and the U.S., CJP and FCAS are close collaborators and partners in this work, with both efforts encouraging individuals to post and share the blue square emoji as a simple way to show solidarity with the Jewish community.
“Unfortunately, in the country I love so much, there are disturbing actions that, in my opinion, remind me of the late 1930s [in Germany],” Kraft said. “Neo-Nazis raising swastikas. Demonstrators saying, ‘Sieg Heil, down with the Jews.’ This is the United States of America in 2023.”
State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg expressed concern that a rabbi from the hometown Brookline synagogue of both herself and Kraft had been accosted for being Jewish.
“Unbelievably, he was attacked for being a Jew on Harvard Street in Brookline, Mass.,” said Goldberg, the first Jewish female statewide elected official in Massachusetts. “It’s a community known for tolerance and inclusion. If we are not safe there, we are not safe anywhere.”
Baker voiced a similar unease with the way the country was trending.
“I was blessed to grow up in what felt like a post-antisemitic America,” he said. “If anyone hated me because I was Jewish, I didn’t see it, I didn’t feel it. It’s not so anymore … We must face the reality that this ancient hatred is still alive today, even in our own hometowns.”
“This campaign tells the human story,” Baker said, “the real impact hate has on our friends and our neighbors. The national Stand Up to Jewish Hate campaign is already educating and mobilizing people around the country and around the world.”
“It’s also about action,” he added, citing “a robust resource hub at FaceJewishHate.org. If you do one thing today, I encourage you to visit our website and begin to take action against rising hate that targets other marginalized communities as well.”
The campaign aims to have an impact beyond the launch event, including through its website, which encourages allyship in the fight against antisemitism.
“I’m proud to stand here today with allies and leaders in law enforcement, government, sports teams, faith communities and beyond,” Baker said. “Our allies will always stand with us. Thank you to every person who speaks up and stands out.”
Massachusetts Attorney General Andrea Campbell noted the unprecedented amount of antisemitic incidents occurring across the U.S. The first Black attorney general of Massachusetts, she spoke of majoring in sociology and Judaic studies at Princeton University, where she researched Black and Jewish leaders working together for justice, and of her belief that there is a “connective tissue” between the Jewish, Black, Hispanic/Latino and Asian American communities.
“When they come for one of us, they’re truly coming for all of us,” Campbell said. “I and the team will prosecute antisemitic and racist acts to the fullest extent of the law. I’m really proud to lead an incredible office hard at work every single day to keep people safe from hate and harassment.”
Cardinal Seán Patrick O’Malley, head of the Archdiocese of Boston, recalled meeting with Jewish communal leaders at a recent interfaith event between Jews and Christians. He expressed his shock upon hearing about security measures their synagogues have taken, including armed guards.
Speakers also included Rabbi Ron Fish, the ADL’s Eastern division director of antisemitism education and advocacy, and Jeremy Burton, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston. Dr. Sarah Abramson, senior vice president of strategy and impact at CJP, was the moderator.
At the Jewish American Heritage Month signing ceremony at the State House, Healey was asked about the blue square pin she was wearing in solidarity.
“I think the Kraft family has come up with a really powerful campaign working with CJP and others on this,” she said. “I think it will make a real difference.”