Danielle V. Minson — Raising the Bar
Fighting Antisemitism in Cincinnati
We recently had a high-profile visitor from outside the Jewish community. After he walked in, and I’d introduced myself; he hugged me, looked me in the eyes, and said, “I am so sorry that you need to have this security in your building.” I was momentarily choked up—made to remember what I usually take for granted: we as Jews have to be careful.
Did you know, according to the FBI, 59 percent of religion-based hate crimes in 2019 were anti-Jewish hate crimes? The next highest is 14 percent, for Islamic hate crimes.
We all hear and know that antisemitism is on the rise. And we are all worried.
I want to take this moment to give you an update on local antisemitism and our community’s efforts to fight it. This work is important, needed, and effective.
The Jewish Federation of Cincinnati works hard to fight antisemitism, as we have done since our public relations arm, the Jewish Community Relations Council(JCRC), was established in the 1930s. We were also among the first Federations to recognize the value of having a local security expert, starting SAFE Cincinnatiin 2013, which improves our community’s readiness to deal with security threats and natural disasters.
In the past year, antisemitic graffiti and flyers have been found at all major local universities: the University of Cincinnati, Xavier University, Thomas More University, and Miami University. These incidents have been linked to well-known antisemitic white-supremacist groups and to individual perpetrators. The Federation, through SAFE Cincinnati, maintains strong relationships with the universities’ Jewish leadership and university and local police executives to pursue these threats and combat their effects.
Also over the past year, many incidents of antisemitic graffiti and flyeringwere discovered in various neighborhoods and in our schools. Again, the Federation, through JCRC and SAFE Cincinnati, has worked with the local police and with the Nancy & David Wolf Holocaust & Humanities Center to identify some perpetrators and provide resolution. On January 6, we were told of antisemitic graffiti scrawled on bridges in Lindner Park in Norwood. On that same day, JCRC’s director, Rabbi Ari Ballaban, went ahead and removed the graffiti himself.
What more do we do through JCRC?
- We hosted a forum in December on antisemitism for non-Jewish allies.
- We helped to pass House Bill 504, which increased the penalty for disturbing a religious meeting, online or in person.
- We helped pass a bill that mandates all state colleges and universities provide three religious exemption days, with no questions asked, for all students.
What more do we do through SAFE Cincinnati?
- Over the past ten years, we’ve invested over $5 million to upgrade the physical security of more than 35 Jewish-related institutions in the Cincinnati area.
- We helped every local Jewish organization create or update its emergency response plans.
- We partnered with local law enforcement departments to provide emergency and active shooter training.
- We are initiating a program to help our Jewish community partners vastly improve their cyber security awareness and posture.
- We initiated a statewide information sharing network with Federations across Ohio to help address and combat antisemitic incidents and threats. It researched and reviewed over 140 antisemitic incidents in Ohio over the last year.
This is just some of the work that we do. We also do this work at the regional, national, and international levels.
I want to conclude on a hopeful note of education and allyship. I am proud to announce that our JCRC’s Leaders in Light Institute has just opened nominationsfor a second fellowship cohort. This impactful program, begun over a year ago with its first cohort, finds local leaders with diverse backgrounds and perspective to strengthen connections with allies and to counter extremism and hate in our city. In convening our first fellowship cohort, we demonstrated that this sort of allyship is powerful and effective. Learning and working together is one of the strongest ways to create positive change in a democratic society.
This work cannot happen without you, our donors. Thank you.
I hope that your winter is full of warmth.
PS: Here’s how to learn about our 2024 Cincinnati Community Mission to Israel.
Thanks for caring about our community and what we do.
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