Adam Greenman, Guest columnist Published in the Providence Journal 5:00pm Nov 25, 2022
Recently, in the dark of night, antisemites spread their hatred throughout Warwick and North Providence. Hundreds of leaflets were littered throughout neighborhoods, spreading antisemitic vitriol and putting a new spin on conspiracy theories that have existed for millennia.
This is not the first time that this has happened. Just last month, a similar group of antisemites, who came from out of state, scattered the same hate through neighborhoods in Newport and North Providence. In the last few months, we’ve seen antisemitic incidents take place at Jewish institutions, online and, perhaps most concerning, in schools.
Antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the United States in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to the Anti-Defamation League. This represents the highest number of incidents on record since the league began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979 — an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34% increase year over year.
At the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, we track antisemitic incidents in our region. Since June, there have been 25 reported incidents. Over the same period last year, there were only six. What was once rare and concerning has become too routine, and alarming. What was once a statistic has become for many in our community, too personal. For my family, it became personal when our daughter heard a fellow middle-school student say, “Kanye was right about the Jews.” This must stop, and our Jewish community needs your help.
Throughout the Torah there is a word uttered by major figures throughout biblical history. It is uttered by Abraham, Jacob and Moses as an answer to God. It is the Hebrew word, “hineni” which translates to, “Here I am.” At the Jewish Alliance, hineni is one of our core values. To us, it means standing with others, so no one stands alone.
Our Jewish community needs all of Rhode Island to declare “hineni.” We need you to stand with us so we do not stand alone. We need elected leaders, business leaders, community leaders and everyday Rhode Islanders to call out antisemitism. The Jewish community is only 2% of Rhode Island’s population, so we cannot fight this hate on our own.
There are many ways you can stand with us. When you see or hear an antisemitic act, report it to law enforcement or to the Jewish Alliance. If you feel comfortable doing so, call out the antisemitism in the moment. You can also educate yourself about the long history of antisemitism and hatred. There are many resources on this at antisemitism.adl.org, and at the Bornstein Holocaust Education Center in Providence. Finally, if you’d like to learn more about our culture and community, come join us for an event. At the Dwares Jewish Community Center we have many opportunities throughout the year that celebrate Jewish culture and our universal values.
Nearly 400 years ago Roger Williams came to Rhode Island fleeing religious persecution. Since then, our state has been a place where religious freedom is a core value. It is a state that includes the first Baptist Church of America and America’s oldest synagogue. For hundreds of years, Rhode Island has been a place where the Jewish community has felt safe; where it has thrived and flourished.
In this moment of deep concern, we ask all Rhode Islanders to say “hineni,” so we can stamp out hate and so we can all stand together.
Adam Greenman is the president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island.