Rabbi Azaryah Cohen from the Frankel Jewish Academy, Rabbi Jen Lader from Temple Israel and Rabbi Yisrael Pinson from Chabad in the D participate in the event.

Rabbi Azaryah Cohen from the Frankel Jewish Academy, Rabbi Jen Lader from Temple Israel and Rabbi Yisrael Pinson from Chabad in the D participate in the event.

Photo by Erin Sanchez


Hundreds gather in Farmington Hills for community anti-Semitism forum

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published January 29, 2020

 More than 600 people — congressional leaders, law enforcement personnel and residents — attended the Jewish Community Forum on anti-Semitism at Adot Shalom Synagogue Jan. 23.

More than 600 people — congressional leaders, law enforcement personnel and residents — attended the Jewish Community Forum on anti-Semitism at Adot Shalom Synagogue Jan. 23.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

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FARMINGTON HILLS — The pews of Adot Shalom Synagogue were filled to the brim Jan. 23, as more than 600 people came together to discuss the increase of anti-Semitism being felt by the Jewish community.

The event was coordinated and hosted by the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Anti-Defamation League. It was moderated by David Kurzmann, the senior director of community and donor relations for the Jewish Federation, and it was paneled by several regional rabbis, an agent from the FBI’s Detroit Division and a representative from the ADL.

Michigan House Democratic Leader and 37th District Rep. Christina Greig, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, and several other government and law enforcement officials also made special appearances.

The community forum was hosted to bring together members of the Jewish faith and others to discuss the rise in anti-Semitism, and to demonstrate solidarity and strength in unity, acknowledge the feelings and fears being felt by the local community, inform the community of the resources at their disposal, and encourage action, Kurzmann said.

“We have, thankfully, not been the targets of such violent incidents. That being said, what we are hearing from the community is that people are anxious,” he said. “It’s a tight-knit national Jewish community, so when there are attacks on Jews in New York, it reverberates to Detroit.”

As panelists discussed what the Jewish community can do to respond and fight back against anti-Semitism, a few key themes kept resurfacing.

Many of the rabbis said one key is to continue to be openly and confidently Jewish.

“We need to continue being Jewish openly. We have to remember that all the other nations of the world that tried to eliminate us are gone, and we’re here. The constant that is the same over the past 3,000 years is our Torah values,” said Rabbi Yisrael Pinson, of Chabad Detroit.

Members of the Jewish community must continue to reach out and support other oppressed, minority groups in order for their community to receive the same, the rabbis said.

“Being openly and outwardly supportive of our non-Jewish neighbors. We have plenty of neighbors in this community who are also targeted as victim of hate crimes across the board, and it is absolutely essential for us to show up for them,” said Rabbi Jen Lader, of Temple Israel. “By standing up and saying we won’t tolerate hateful behavior, we are not only supporting our community members doing the right thing as Jews, but we are also protecting ourselves against making it OK to speak like that and treat people in that fashion.”

Lader said she surveyed teens she works with at Temple Israel, and roughly 45 out of 60 teens in her class said they’ve experienced anti-Semitism in some form in their lives, as opposed to only approximately eight students who said the same thing eight years ago.

Pinson said educating students of the issues faced within the Jewish community is how the community at large can grow the next generation of moral, respectful leaders.

One of the most robust themes discussed at the forum centered around security and what people can do if they feel threatened.

Special Agent Joseph Lupinacci, of the FBI’s Detroit Division, spoke about the FBI’s National Threat Operation Center, a task force dedicated to taking action against threats of extensive danger, which receives roughly 3,500 phone calls daily.

He said the FBI takes anti-Semitic threats and civil rights violations “extremely seriously” and always encourages victims to speak out against them.

“I think that empowers victims to come forward and report if they were a victim of a civil rights crime,” Lupinacci said. “Hate against your community is hate against our community.”

However, Lupinacci said that protecting people comes with a balance of security and the right to free speech.

Carolyn Normandin, of the ADL, echoed Lupinacci’s comments, adding that when victims report anti-Semitic actions, they’re funneled into a larger data pool that the ADL has been collecting for 40 years, which helps drive policy enforcement and changes, as well as law enforcement action. She said reports, when combined, allow the ADL to locate pocket areas where more law enforcement action may be needed.

She said it’s important to hold people and corporations — anyone found allowing hate speech to spread — accountable.

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