Representatives of a broad spectrum of the Jewish community led a united front against anti-Jewish bigotry and violence that is on the rise as tensions increase in the Middle East.
About 200 people united on a very hot Sunday afternoon to show solidarity against a rising tide of antisemitism. The rally took place on June 6 on the west side of Orchard Lake Road north of 14 Mile in West Bloomfield.
Representatives of a broad spectrum of the Jewish community led a united front against anti-Jewish bigotry and violence that is on the rise as tensions increase in the Middle East. Groups participating were the Jewish Community Relations Council/American Jewish Committee (JCRC/AJC), the Zionist Organization of America-Michigan Region (ZOA-MI), ADL Michigan, Hadassah Greater Detroit Chapter and the National Council of Jewish Women-Michigan Region (NCJW-MI).
“We stand together against antisemitism, and we stand together against hatred,” said Rabbi Asher Lopatin, the executive director of JCRC/AJC, noting that although all the sponsoring groups do not agree on many issues, they are united in their desire to defend Jews.
“All the groups here have passions for Israel and so many other things that are central to our lives.
“This rally is about stopping Jew hatred, stopping antisemitism,” Lopatin said.
“Before the Holocaust, there was not enough protest against antisemitism,” said Kobi Erez, executive director of ZOA-MI. “Jews were discriminated against. Their stores were boycotted. They were attacked in the streets. People, including some Jews, thought it would pass if they just stayed silent.
“In the face of hate, in the face of antisemitism, the worst thing we can do is stay silent. We are here. We are proud to be Jewish. We are proud of our non-Jewish allies who showed up to support us today.
“We stand up against hate against of any group, and we are standing up against hate against the Jewish people,” Erez said.
ZOA-MI President Sheldon Freilich, added, “Since the 1930s, we have not seen this kind of hatred, Jews attacked on the streets and graffiti defacing buildings. I’m a child of Holocaust survivors, and I’m scared of what’s going on in our United States of America. As Americans, we need to stand up and not accept this.
“Many antisemites today view Israel as a reason to attack Jews. This is denounced by the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism.
“Write to congressional leaders,” Freilich urged. “Write to the White House. Write to the media. They need to take action against antisemitism.”
‘All Hatred is Intolerable’
Seth Gould, president of JCRC/AJC, said, “We stand together against antisemitism and hatred of any kind — hatred against Jews, hatred against Muslims, hatred against Christians as well. On past occasions, Jews have marched for Black lives. We have marched and advocated against Islamophobia. For Asian lives, this year. All lives matter. All hatred is intolerable.
“It is not OK to violate a Jewish place of worship or a Jewish-owned restaurant or a person who wears a kippah or a Jewish star. We stand here today as proud Jews.
“Hate against any one of us is hate against all of us,” Gould said. “The Jewish people know what it means to be silent to crimes against us. Today we say, we will not be silent. We will not bow to terror. Never again!”
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of ADL Michigan said, “My office is getting incident after incident after incident reported.
“Incidents of hate must be investigated and tracked, and we must use the data to tell people in Congress and every single living room that hate is hate — and targeting Jewish people for any reason because of their Jewishness is not allowed.
“We must rise up,” she added. “Antisemitism will not be tolerated. To target someone for who they are is not activism — it’s antisemitism.”
Fran Heiklen, president of Hadassah Greater Detroit Chapter, said Hadassah, among its many efforts to combat antisemitism, is promoting adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. (One aspect of the IHRA document draws the distinction between fair criticism of Israel and antisemitism.)
Amy Cutler, president of NCJW-MI, said, “The number of antisemitic hate crime incidents growing to violence have increased dramatically in the past few years, and they affect every area of our lives, including workplaces, schools, college campuses and places of worship.
“For 130 years, NCJW Michigan has been fighting against hate on behalf of people of many different racial, ethnic, national, religious and cultural backgrounds. We thank all of you who came out today and stand with us in solidarity to reject antisemitism and recognize that hateful and violent acts are never, ever acceptable.”
Among the attendees was Rabbi Steven Rubenstein of Congregation Beth Ahm in West Bloomfield. During Shabbat services the previous day, he encouraged people to attend the rally and was pleased to see about 40 fellow congregants there.
“Statistics show we’re in a particularly dangerous time,” Rubenstein told the JN. “I think it’s important for Jews to be together and to speak out and bring in other allies to speak against antisemitism. I’m really glad that people came.”