Political, community and religious leaders in San Diego invited the public to a town hall Thursday night to discuss safety issues and outreach programs to combat the rising tide of local anti-Semitism.
Mayor Todd Gloria told a crowd of more than 200 gathered at a synagogue in Del Cerro that an attack on one minority group is an attack on all minority groups. He said law enforcement would work with community members to prevent hateful violence in all its forms.
“We’re better than the people who spit it out,” Gloria said. He later added, “We’ll make the necessary connections to make sure they never, ever win.”
The event, held at Temple Emanu-El, was billed as “A San Diego Town Hall with Mayor Todd Gloria,” but other people helped moderate the discussion hosted by the Anti League. -libel, including Summer Stephan, the county attorney. , Sheri Sachs, local Jewish community leader and activist, and Karen Parry, executive director of Hillel of San Diego.
Parry and fellow panelist Fernando López, executive director of San Diego Pride, said minority groups that have faced discrimination and hate-fueled violence should work together as allies. By “opening people’s eyes” through education and awareness, they argued, they could defeat a “common enemy: white supremacy and white nationalism.”
“The first step is to meet, to come together, to feel connected to a Jewish community around you,” Perry said, adding that the Hillel now regularly visits college campuses to distribute food and invite visitors. non-Jewish students. to events.
An audit released earlier this year by the Anti-Defamation League showed that 2021 had the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents nationwide since the ADL began tracking statistics in 1979. Locally, the community Jewish San Diego County recorded a 31% increase in incidents last year.
The audit, coupled with recent anti-Semitic statements from a handful of celebrities, led the ADL to organize the event and open a dialogue between the Jewish community and elected officials, officials said.
They also hoped the conversation would help dispel anti-Semitic stereotypes and conspiracy theories dominating some sectors of social media, officials said.
“We are all reeling from the recent rise of anti-Semitism and bigotry of all kinds here and across the country,” an ADL statement said Thursday, “and this event is an opportunity for locals of San Diego to hear from their elected officials and community leaders about how they are fighting hate in our city, and it gives them the opportunity to ask them questions directly.
Before entering the event, attendees walked past San Diego police officers. Private security was waiting at the door of the synagogue with metal detectors and areas to check bags.
Sachs said the Jewish community had lost allies over the years and many felt they were increasingly isolated. Gloria and Stephan informed attendees that he and local law enforcement are committed to making sure the Jewish community feels safe in San Diego County.
A handful of people expressed concern about the normalization of anti-Semitic violence in their community.
Attendee Jackie Stein sat at the back of the shrine, carrying an October community newspaper in her purse. The front page featured a story about Carmel Valley Middle School, where a seventh-grade teacher had posted a picture of Adolf Hitler in class alongside photos of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
A student complained to the teacher about the photo in September and a parent contacted the principal and the Anti-Defamation League. School staff removed the photo.
The Union-Tribune reported in October that civil rights groups, Jewish organizations, parents and community members said that associating Hitler with a group of inspiring and positive world leaders without providing context or of explanation was confusing and damaging, regardless of the teacher’s intent.
“(Elected officials) don’t want violence where they live or where their constituents live,” Stein said. “And that’s why I’m here. They need to know that this is a very big problem that needs to be fixed.
The Jewish Foundation of San Diego released a statement on the Carmel Valley incident last month, saying the controversy arose after hundreds of Jewish students in the San Dieguito Union School District pleaded for their school board do something about anti-Semitism. Students said they faced intolerance at school, ranging from offensive comments and internet memes to vandalism and having to take standardized tests on Rosh Hashanah.
Stephan told the audience that his office will continue to treat prosecuting hate crimes as a top priority.
“We tripled our hate crime prosecutions in my office last year because bullies need to be caught and prosecuted,” Stephan said, adding that his office wanted to send the message that San Diego “is not a place to be. hate”.
In 2019, John Earnest, a 19-year-old former nursing student, entered a Poway synagogue on the last day of Passover and shot several worshippers, killing one and injuring three others, including a child.
He pleaded guilty to all charges in state and federal courts, including murder charges, attempted murder and arson – for the attack on Chabad of Poway and for burning down an Escondido mosque a month earlier – admitting both acts were hate crimes.
School administrators and Jewish community leaders held a news conference in Chula Vista last November to report that anti-Semitic and homophobic graffiti had been discovered on the campuses of Bonita Vista High School and Bonita Vista Middle School in Chula Vista. A few weeks later, two swastikas were found on the walls of the boys’ restroom at Torrey Pines High School.
Since then, the districts of San Diego Unified and San Dieguito Union High have passed resolutions denouncing anti-Semitic rhetoric.
The ADL has increasingly promoted anti-hate educational opportunities in classrooms and on campuses in recent years, and the Jewish Federation of San Diego County helped raise $5 million for security renovations in local Jewish organizations by 2025.
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