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Why we fight…

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By Daniel Staffenberg, CEO, Jewish Community Federation of Richmond

We were walking the neighborhood for Halloween with our youngest sons’ best friends and their parents, a group of six who are tight, support, challenge, and care about each other.

Any parents dream.

As we walked and chatted, enjoying the joy and laughs on the kids’ faces, a night of joy was shattered by a single sentence.

“That place Jews you down, they are so cheap.”

My heart sunk.

I must have heard wrong, but at the same time I knew I hadn’t. Slipping to the back of the group, finding some space my thoughts raced and my anger grew. Do I say something? What would it mean for the friendship? Do I risk it? How do I not?

I have dealt with this as a professional too many times to count, flyers, shootings, deaths, vandalism, but this time it hit home, the antisemitism and hate yet again.

My story is not unique, it is our communal story. The fear instilled through flyers, the security at our shuls, the heartache of Tree of Life. The pain of our community targeted again, and again.

Fighting rising Antisemitism and hate have become far to common a part of our communal agenda.

We talk about million-dollar investments in security. How we protect our kids and community. Active Threat and stop the bleed training.

Thankfully we are being proactive, being aware and putting in place everything we can to secure our community. If only we didn’t have to. What if we could invest those millions in Jewish Education, investments in bridge building, education about our history, connections to Israel and the global Jewish world and building a vibrant and inclusive future for all.

This month we continue the fight. We join our Federation partners across the Commonwealth, and regional and national partners in raising our voice in the halls of the capitol.

Under the outstanding leadership of our Jewish Community Relations Committee led by Chair Amy Melnick-Scharf, we stand at a critical point in our fight.

The opportunity to pass groundbreaking legislation to educate, protect and secure our Jewish community.

Legislation that adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of Antisemitism, combat the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and include Jews in Hate crime legislation will be on the floor.

Our community’s years of work and concerted efforts to strengthen and build best practice legislation that protects free speech, and our community will be considered.

These groundbreaking bills are a great first step and we will continue to do everything we can to see them passed. We also know that this is only one step in the fight. While we raised our voice at Virginia Jewish Advocacy Day, we must make every day an advocacy day.

Why do we fight? Because hate grows in darkness. It grows when we stay silent to hate in any form. Hate grows when we shrink from the joys of Jewish life, engagement, and pride.

It is why amongst the joy of trick or treaters I know that I too must speak up. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t comfortable, but it was necessary.

We will not allow the hate to grow, we will raise our voice and strengthen our community.

 

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