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On Holocaust Remembrance Day, A Show Of Solidarity Against 'All Hate'

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jan 27, 2017 4:14PM

Getty Images / Photo: Carsten Koall

As people around the globe commemorate International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish groups in Chicago are honoring the victims of the past but, at the same time, urging vigilance against a current environment of hate and voicing solidarity with other targeted minorities.

Against a backdrop of increased hate incidents and President Donald Trump’s anti-refugee policies, Jewish organizations argue that the present moment remains critical.

“Every year we say never again,” Emily Sweet, of Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, told Chicagoist. That includes combatting the “hateful rhetoric over the last year in our political discourse. The lessons of standing against hate and bigotry are as critically important today as they were then.”

“We have to raise awareness for other ethnic and religious groups as well,” Sweet added.

In recent years, hate speech appears to have started rising first in Europe in the summer of 2014, around the time of the conflict in Gaza, but then a similar wave ended up hitting America, including here in Illinois.

“Now we see this uptick at home,” said Amy Miller, Assistant Director of International Affairs & Communications of American Jewish Committee - Chicago, which hosted a conversation with a Holocaust survivor on Thursday in honor of today's memorial. She noted a rash of swastika vandalism and acts of intimidation along with some violent crimes over the last 18 months. “We want to make sure we’re vigilant about it… It’s in everyone’s best interest to speak with one voice against hate.” (Miller stressed that while AJC is nonpartisan, the organization speaks out against any policies it finds unethical.)

In the Midwest, reports of hate incidents might finally be leveling off a bit, according to Lonnie Nasatir, Regional Director of Greater Chicago/Upper Midwest of the Anti-Defamation League. But the immediately preceding moment was even more acute. The post-election spike in hate incidents was the largest he’s witnessed in over a decade, he said.

The Chicago area witnessed racist vandalism in the South Loop, at a West Side school, in the north suburbs and on campuses in the city and in Evanston.

Still, such acts do continue. People were “taken aback, as they should be,” by racist graffiti tagged on a Beverly garage. “We don’t want this normalized. We want outrage,” Nasatir said, adding that the struggle is incumbent on solidarity with all victimized groups.