By taking a quick glance at the annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, one can see that a lot has changed in the country over the last few years.
In just 2017, per the last audit released in March, anti-Semitic events across Pennsylvania rose by 43 percent in 2017 compared to the previous year. Nationwide, anti-Semitic occurrences were almost 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, with a reported 1,986 cases.
That might be impetus alone for participants to show up for the ADL’s eighth annual Walk Against Hate on June 3 at the Navy Yard.
But its mission spreads beyond that.
“ADL has seen an increase in anti-Semitic instances as well as other hate crimes in general,” noted Dan Keefer, local associate director of development. “It’s important to shine a light and show, here in our region, there is no place for hate and we will fight that. It’s called the Walk Against Hate, but we also walk for different things — we walk for our communities, for a diverse and inclusive Philadelphia and we walk for each other, and I think it’s an important day.”
The 2-mile walk, which Keefer affectionately called one his “babies,” will feature entertainment and family-friendly activities, including face painting, balloon artistry and magicians, as well as music performances by numerous groups.
Suzann Christine will be performing on the main stage, and Keefer was excited to have indie rock band Airways, who also performed last year; Johnny Petunia; Kyo Daiko, a community taiko drumming group; and the Domination Dance Team performing along the route “to keep everyone entertained as they Walk Against Hate.”
There will also be a diversity expo featuring 35 other nonprofits “that share our mission and our goal of justice and fair treatment for all,” Keefer said. These organizations work in areas of LGBT equality, immigration services and more.
The funds raised from the event — for which the goal was $500,000 and had reached $324,998 as of press time — go toward ADL program initiatives in schools and with law enforcement, such as its No Place for Hate program. Keefer noted the the program taught anti-bias and anti-bullying lessons to 300,000 students in the tri-state area in the past year.
ADL briefed more than 350 federal, state and local law enforcement professionals from the tri-state area on white supremacy, homegrown terrorism and other extremism at a law enforcement summit in October, he added.
For Keefer, the walk represents an opportunity for all Philadelphians to take a stand together.
“It’s worth reminding Philadelphia and the region of the importance of diverse and unified community, and the walk is a great opportunity to do just that,” he said. “Yes, it’s important to raise funds and advance ADL’s mission, but it’s just as important to show Philadelphians and everyone else standing and walking together in this Walk Against Hate.”
The diversity of the participants is an event cornerstone. Keefer noted the walk has the support of not only the local Jewish community, but other “races, creeds, religions, sexualities, ethnicities — absolutely everything. That is incredibly heartening.”
Having the whole community come together stands out, too, to ADL Regional Director Nancy Baron-Baer.
“At this time, when our society is so divisive on so many different issues, it’s wonderful to have an opportunity for people of all religions, races, national origins, sexual identities, et cetera, to come together to walk against hate,” she said. “Certainly, supporting one another and fighting against hate has taken on new meaning and new importance, and we hope that people in the Philadelphia region will join us on June 3. In addition, it’s a truly fun, educational and heartwarming event.”
Keefer anticipates surpassing last year’s attendance, which rang in at about 2,000 people. Moreover, he is hoping for good weather, as the event is rain or shine.
“I’m looking forward to seeing thousands of diverse participants coming together and just having an incredible day on a hopefully sunny Sunday,” he laughed.
To register for the walk, visit walkagainsthate.org.