The Associated Leads Efforts to Address Antisemitism in Maryland

This past year, hate and bias incidents have risen in almost every jurisdiction in Maryland, targeting individuals and facilities, from schools and community centers to places of worship. It’s part of a growing uptick in antisemitic incidents occurring worldwide.

That’s why, The Associated and the Baltimore Jewish Council (BJC) convened a community leadership Antisemitism Summit, bringing together more than 75 professionals and lay leaders from local synagogues, day schools, agencies and other Jewish institutions, as well as Jewish elected officials, in an attempt to begin to address this issue head-on.

With Maryland Senator Ben Cardin providing a perspective about anti-Semitism worldwide, and the Anti-Defamation League offering background on national and state statistics, the summit was a chance to learn about measures currently being taken both locally and in communities around the country. The attendees then broke into groups to brainstorm ways the Baltimore Jewish community can help stem the rising tide of antisemitism in Maryland.

Many of the suggestions that came out of the summit focused on educating both the Jewish and non-Jewish communities about what constitutes antisemitism while looking at ways to better engage our neighbors in dialogue and standing together against all forms of hate. Several ideas included partnerships, like the one recently created between the JCC and the Y of Central Maryland, to increase understanding among diverse groups.

A small task force, led by Debs Weinberg, Chair of the Board of The Associated, and Rabbi Andrew Busch, first vice president of the BJC, is currently being formed. This group will review the ideas generated during the meeting, prioritize them, and decide which agency, institution or other entity would be in the best position to take the lead.

“The summit and the immediate creation of this task force speak to the urgency and importance we are placing on this issue,” said Howard Libit, executive director of the BJC. “We want to move quickly to launch new initiatives.”

In addition, the BJC is looking to collect information on activities or programs that are currently being implemented to fight antisemitism from institutions across the community.

According to a recent study released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the U.S. Jewish community experienced near record levels of antisemitism in 2018. In a year marked by shootings at both the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and the Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, there were 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions, the third-highest year on record since ADL began tracking in the 1970s. Maryland saw an approximately 9 percent increase.

In recent years, The Associated, through its agencies, has worked tirelessly to promote better understanding between neighbors and address antisemitism. Some of these programs include:

  • This past year, the BJC advocated for a hate crimes bill, which passed overwhelmingly by the Maryland General Assembly. This bill expanded penalties to include individuals who threaten to commit a hate crime. Now all threats, such as the bomb threats called into the JCC two years ago, as well as e-mail threats and social media threats, will be punished.
  • CHAI has created a number of programs that bring neighbors from the Jewish, African American and Latinx communities together and build understanding across racial, ethnic and religious lines. These include Multi-cultural Nights, offered through the Fallstaff Multi-Cultural Organizing Project, showcase Jewish, African American and Latino culture to neighbors using food, native dress, books and art and its newest project, a four-part community dialogue between Orthodox Jewish women and Women of Color.
  • Each year, 3,000 students from Baltimore City and the surrounding counties visit the Jewish Museum of Maryland (JMM), touring the Lloyd Street Synagogue and the museum’s myriad exhibits. Through these field trips, they learn about Jewish history, customs and traditions. They also begin to understand that Jews share similar experiences to their own lives through discrimination and other challenges.
  • The Hillels across the region have frequently been at the forefront of fighting hate incidents, partnering with other faith communities and their campus leadership to forcefully denounce anti-Semitic incidents when they have occurred. The Center for Jewish Education has also worked to prepare high school students and their parents for antisemitism they might encounter when they go off to college.

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