Carlos Galindo-Elvira, Arizona regional director of the Anti-Defamation League, spoke on the rise of anti-Semitism across the United States on Tuesday, Feb. 28. He was hosted by the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, which has been organizing hot topic discussions for almost two years.
Galindo-Elvira began by explaining the ADL’s mission, which is to not only protect Jewish people from defamation, but secure just treatment for all. Recent incidences have shown that anti-Semitism has made its way back into the mainstream and is thriving in the current political climate. According to ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, anti-Semitism has not been this prevalent since the 1930s. At the same time, hate crimes against other groups such as Latinos, Muslims or the LGBT community are on the rise as well.
Even in this, Galindo-Elvira managed to see a positive side of things.
“This situation is a wonderful opportunity for multi-communal collaboration,” he said and pointed to the example of Muslims raising money after Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia had been severely damaged, and a Jewish community offering its synagogue as a place for Muslims to pray after a mosque in Texas was burned down.
In Arizona, the ADL provides education programs in schools and strives to create respectful and inclusive campuses that cater to the diverse student population.
The organization also works closely with law enforcement on the local and federal level. The goal is for officers to understand the sensibilities of a hate crime and respond accordingly. Galindo-Elvira expressed thankfulness for the excellent support law enforcement has previously provided. The ADL also directly responds to anti-Semitic incidences, such as in the case of a Chandler family, who called the police after they found the Hanukiah on their front lawn bent into the shape of a swastika last December. The ADL was in contact with the family directly after the incident and made sure that they got the care and protection they needed. A re-lighting ceremony was held the night after, and roughly 100 people attended.
Recently, the ADL issued a proposal for the White House on how to respond to the rise of anti-Semitism in America. Galindo-Elvira said he was glad President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitic threats and actions last month and sincerely hopes that the guidelines will be adopted.
He stressed that political leaders should be the first to firmly denounce hate crimes, but that everyone else also has the same moral responsibility to speak out. Just like the shamash, which is the ninth candle on the menorah and is used to light the other eight candles, people should spread love and light to their community, he said.
Spreading love and light can take on many different forms. Galindo-Elvira highlighted a few points that people can incorporate into their daily lives to build a more open and tolerant environment. Listening and being approachable to others, even if they have an opposing opinion, making new friends or acquaintances with a different background and world view, or supporting nonprofits that unify people’s voices were among the most important.
Another crucial point was to learn about the rights manifested in the First Amendment, such as the freedom of religion and speech, and the right to assemble peacefully, as well as encouraging others to familiarize themselves with these rights.
Galindo-Elvira also encouraged the audience to engage in activism and emphasized that this does not necessarily have to mean going out to march.
“There are many different degrees of activism, there is not only one way of doing it. So many things can affect change,” he said.
Even a simple phone call to an elected official can have a great effect. However, he also stressed the importance of being aware of personal safety when directly challenging hateful rhetoric or actions.
Despite the rising threats to Jewish people and other minorities across the country, Galindo-Elvira closed his presentation with a message of hope and resilience: “In the face of hateful threats, we will not be frightened, we will not be deterred and we will not be silenced.” BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS