CVIndependent

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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Antisemitism and other forms of racial hatred are on the rise—and Temple Isaiah in Palm Springs is taking a stand with the Interfaith Service to Stop Hate, taking place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29.

During a recent phone interview, organizer Bob Weinstein explained the goal of the service.

“There’s been a tremendous spike in the hate of minorities, with Jews being shot dead in their houses of worship, and African Americans being persecuted in the streets,” Weinstein said. “Even in Palm Springs, we had an incident with the Black History Parade … where someone from the parade was attacked by a racist.

“The LGBT community is systematically being attacked. We have a very polarizing situation today where minorities are being viciously persecuted across the country and around the world. A Jewish person can’t walk down the streets of Paris without being attacked. What I wanted to do to combat this hate before it gets worse is partner up with local churches once a month … and have more of a brotherly service and try to get the pastors, temples and Baptist churches across the country to (tell) their congregations that hate and bigotry are not acceptable. We’d like to start this trend across the country.”

Weinstein said religious congregations are in a position to speak out against racial hatred.

“The base of the community is the community that goes to church or goes to a mosque,” he said. “Unless the leaders of these communities talk and teach their congregants that hate is not acceptable in our society, things could get worse. During the Nazi persecution of Jews in Europe during World War II, most of the churches remained silent, even though the church leaders were aware that Jews were being persecuted and murdered. You can’t have that today. You need to have the leaders of the community talk to their congregants and tell them, ‘This has to stop, and it’s not acceptable.’ We have to make a change for the better, and we have a capacity to do better.”

In 2018, the FBI reported that there were 7,175 hate crimes in the United States in 2017—1,054 more than the previous year, or a 17 percent increase.

“The problem is it’s becoming more acceptable,” Weinstein said. “Antisemitism is out in the open. Attacking African Americans in the street has become more acceptable. These things cannot be acceptable in our society; otherwise, we’re going to end up in a civil war. That’s the bottom line. We have to stop it, and we have to deescalate the situation before it gets worse.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center estimates that there are at least 30 hate groups in Southern California.

“There have been a number of Nazi organizations and hate groups living in the Coachella Valley, and in the surrounding areas as well,” Weinstein said. “It’s always been a very conservative jurisdiction. Small pockets like Palm Springs are subject to periodic attacks like we had with George Zander a few years ago. We have to be on guard, and we have to fight back.”

The service at Temple Isaiah will include speakers including Congressman Raul Ruiz, Mayor Robert Moon, Palm Springs Councilmember Lisa Middleton, Palm Springs Councilmember Geoff Kors, and State Senator Jeff Stone.

“We’ll have speakers before the service from 6:30 to 7:30, and then at 7:30, we’ll have the service where our congregation will join the Baptist congregation in Palm Springs, Ajalon Baptist Church, an African American congregation, and their choir will join our cantor onstage, singing and praying together. We’ll be praying for peace and to stop the hate.”

Weinstein said Temple Isaiah has an important role to play in fighting for social justice in the Coachella Valley.

“Temple Isaiah has always been at the forefront of trying to seek justice not only for the Jewish community, but for minorities in general,” he said. “Many years ago, we had interfaith services with the African-American community and other communities throughout the Coachella Valley. We’re always trying to reach out. I think that not only should we reach out in this instance; we should try to set a trend for the rest of the country.”

The Interfaith Service to Stop Hate will take place at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 29, at Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-325-2281, or visit www.templeisaiahps.com.

Published in Local Issues

NEW YORK (Reuters)—Hate crimes in nine U.S. metropolitan areas rose more than 20 percent last year, fueled by inflamed passions during the presidential campaign and more willingness for victims to step forward, a leading hate crimes researcher said on Monday.

Bias crimes appeared to increase in some cities following the Nov. 8 election of President Donald Trump, a trend that has extended into this year with a wave of bomb threats and desecrations at synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, according to California researcher Brian Levin. 

The White House could not be reached immediately for comment on the research. 

Levin collected data as director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, where he is a professor of criminal justice. The new numbers, collected from police departments, reverse a trend toward fewer hate crimes in many of the cities in recent years.

Among U.S. cities, New York reported the greatest number of hate crimes at 380, a 24 percent increase from 2015, while Washington, D.C., had the largest percentage rise at 62 percent, to 107 incidents.

Overall, there were 1,037 incidents, a 23.3 percent increase from the previous year in the nine areas researched: New York; Washington; Chicago; Philadelphia; Montgomery County, Md.; Columbus, Ohio; Seattle; Long Beach, Calif.; and Cincinnati.

Trump in recent weeks has more forcefully denounced the anti-Semitic and other racially motivated incidents, notably at the start of his address to Congress on Feb. 28. Trump has also expressed how he was personally affected, since his daughter Ivanka converted to Judaism and he has Jewish grandchildren.

After the most recent bomb threats last week, the Trump administration denounced them “in the strongest terms,” White House spokesman Sean Spicer said, promising to search for ways to stop them. 

While some Jewish leaders have suspected the bomb threats may be linked to a higher profile for white nationalists animated by the Trump’s campaign, Levin did not draw that direct link.

In New York City alone, there were 55 anti-Semitic crimes reported from Jan. 1 to March 5 of this year, up 189 percent from 19 such incidents in the same period of 2016, the data showed.

“We might very well be at the start of a trend where anti-Semitic incidents are going up each year. We were seeing an over-decade decline in anti-Semitic incidents,” Levin said.

Bias crimes against Muslims and LGBT people accounted for much of the growth in hate crimes that were reported.

Experts say many hate crimes go unreported and caution against drawing conclusions from such data, which have small sample sizes.

Trump has proposed building a wall on the southern border with Mexico to stop illegal immigrants, and a temporary ban on Muslims entering the country, a proposal he later scaled back.

By highlighting issues such as race, religion and national origin, the presidential election campaign could have influenced both the number of incidents and frequency of reporting them to police, Levin said.

“That, coupled with significant coverage, might have encouraged two things to happen: Individuals who vary in motivation, from hardcore bigots to those just seeking a thrill, seeking something to do, as well as victims who felt that they should report this because they’re not alone,” Levin said.

Even so, Levin said: “I don’t think we can just explain away the increase with increased reporting.”

(Reporting by Grant Smith and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Michael Perry)

 

Published in National/International