WOODBRIDGE, Conn. (WTNH) — A coalition of 60 organizations from all faiths launched a national campaign to combat hate this week.
You’ll start seeing billboards, like the one on I-95 in New Haven, asking you to Shine a Light on Antisemitism.
“Antisemitism has manifested in the U.S. and around the world to a degree we have not witnessed since World War II,” said David Warren, the CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.
During this Jewish celebration of Hannukah, faith leaders ask you to “Shine a Light” on hate. Nov. 28 through Dec. 6 is also “Shine a Light” week in Connecticut.
Warren said the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, swastikas and Hitler mustaches on a banner outside an eastern Connecticut school this year, and a Minnesota couple wearing swastika masks while shopping in Walmart are some examples of hate.
The most recent example? A spraypainted swastika on the sidewalk of the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven.
Warren sites FBI statistics that suggest Jews were targeted in 57% of religious hate crimes in 2020, and he’s received calls from college students living on Connecticut campuses.
Warren said students on campuses across the state are removing their Hillels and Jewish stars from their shirts.
“The students don’t want to wear a sweatshirt with a Hillel and a Jewish star on them,” Warren said. “They don’t want to be identified. Not that they are not proud, but they’re fearful.”
Community leaders said there is also an online trend of Zoom bombing and hate speech on social media.
The national campaign “Shine a Light” focuses on awareness and teaching about differences.
Leaders from the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut said it’s about “learning to have empathy for one another.”
Three years ago, the state legislature passed a law to allow school districts to teach about Jewish history in the classroom while receiving help from local organizations.
Though not a mandate, many districts have started to focus on the Holocaust and antisemitism.
Michael Bloom with the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut said a recent survey found the need for more community resources.
“Some teachers are still intimidated by the subject and need some supports,” Bloom said.
David Hopkins from the Urban League of Greater Hartford reminded people that the national campaign amplifies the community message.
“One of the things that ‘Shine the Light’ campaign does is it gives an invitation and allows us all to take action and responsibility to be a part of the solution,” Hopkins said.