Philadelphia leaders, Jewish and not, came together last week to address growing antisemitism.
American Jewish Committee Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey hosted a press conference on Feb. 22 at City Hall to review its “2022 AJC State of Antisemitism in America Report” and address how to build solidarity with the Philadelphia Jewish community.
AJC CEO Ted Deutch spoke at the event and was accompanied by AJC Philadelphia/Southern New Jersey Regional Director Marcia Bronstein, city council members and other local leaders. Deutch plans to gather with community leaders and AJC regional offices across the country to discuss the report’s findings.
“Nobody should have to make decisions about how they feel, where they go, or if they feel secure because of who they are, as Jews or as members of any community, and too often that’s the case,” Deutch said.
The AJC report, released on Feb. 13, confirmed Jewish leaders’ concerns about growing anti-Jewish hate in the U.S., with the survey reporting that 89% of surveyed Jews believe that antisemitism is a problem in the U.S. One in four American Jews surveyed reported that they were personal targets of antisemitism over the past year, and 67% of those surveyed reported having seen antisemitism online or on social media.
Most alarming to AJC was the 10% increase — from about 30% to 40% — from 2021 to 2022 of respondents saying that the status of Jews is less secure than a year ago.
AJC reported that in the Northeast, 46% of Jews surveyed reported that the status of Jews was less secure, five points above the national average.
However, among the stark numbers were a couple of silver linings. According to Randy Duque, deputy director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations who spoke at the press conference, of the 111 reported incidents of hate in 2022, 7% were antisemitic. These numbers are down from the previous year, even with more reported incidents in 2022, Duque said.
“It’s the opposite trend of what we saw nationally,” he said.
However, these reports are confounded by underreporting of all instances of hate, Duque admitted.
“It might look like it’s trending downward here in the city, but chances are people just are not reporting,” he said.
According to Bronstein, though about 90% of survey respondents, both Jewish Americans and the general public, reported antisemitism as a problem in the country, which also means there is a growing awareness of anti-Jewish sentiments.
“The glimmer of hope is that the majority of Americans are understanding what antisemitism is,” Bronstein said. “They can see it. They see it online; they see it when people say things, so they’re aware of it, and the awareness gives us a chance to make sure that we can crush it.”
Leaders outside of the Jewish community were interested in how to address antisemitism in Philadelphia in the future.
City Council member Michael Driscoll, who drafted the council’s resolution against antisemitism which passed unanimously in November, renewed his commitment to address hate.
“We have to use educational opportunities. We have to use community outreach. We have to use advocacy,” Driscoll said.
Pennsylvania state Sen. Sharif Street and Pennsylvania Asian Pacific American Jewish Alliance co-founder Stephanie Sun spoke of the importance of other racial and ethnic groups allying with the Jewish community to combat antisemitism. Circle of Friends, Philadelphia’s Muslim-Jewish Advisory Council chapter of which Street is a part, as well as PAPAJA, are both organizations partnered with AJC.
“Those who hate and who are looking for scapegoats because of all the problems in their lives invariably will come from all of us if we don’t stand together,” Street said.
“We as a minority need to band together and work together,” Sun added. “Those of us who oppose hate and bigotry are the many. We, as a group, can build bridges to educate the majority and discourage tacit acceptance of hateful rhetoric of the few and build a better world for the many.”
In the AJC’s report, the organization outlines next steps and ways to address antisemitism for local government officials, including unequivocally condemning and depoliticizing antisemitism, encouraging reporting of hate crimes and investing in security for the Jewish community. The AJC’s Call to Action also provides resources for law enforcement, social media companies and educational institutions on how to address antisemitism.
“Everyone has a role to play,” Deutch said.