CEDAR RAPIDS — The Inter-Religious Council of Linn County on Thursday worked on a plan to respond to the anti-Semitic acts that have rocked the nation recently.
“Anti-Semitism is always a symptom of something larger going on,” said Todd Thalblum, rabbi at Temple Judah in Cedar Rapids and a member of the council.
“We’ve seen it for the last year-and-a-half through this presidential campaign. It’s the hate speech and the scapegoating of other groups,” he said. “Once they start coming for the Jews, they do start coming for the others, and we’ve seen that (in history).
“Once one group is no longer safe, neither are the others.”
Since the beginning of January, more than 100 bomb threats have been reported at 73 Jewish community centers or schools, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Three Jewish cemeteries across the nation have been vandalized in the last few weeks.
And while Jews have been persecuted across the world for centuries, Thalblum said he is discouraged to see a rise in anti-Semitic acts in the United States.
“It’s disheartening to see it come back so prevalently,” he said.
The Inter-Religious Council, with representatives from more than eight faith traditions, used a white board to create a list of possible actions the group could take to combat anti-Semitism.
Among the ideas: a unified message on billboards, advertisements, letters to the editor and social media posts.
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“One thing that should be stated is we consider an attack on one of us an attack on all of us,” Brian Daugherty, the Bahai representative, said during the meeting at the Ecumenical Center.
The group also discussed how to respond to any acts against community groups without desensitizing residents.
“We’re going to keep having these things,” said Charles Crawley, the council’s president. “We want to be in front rather than behind. We stand for something else. That’s what we need to be saying.”
In the end, the group decided to take out advertisement in local newspapers denouncing acts against faith groups and asking for unity. The group also plans to make yard signs with a similar message.
Thalblum said all the faith leaders in the Inter-Religious Council are a good representation of how to respect those with differing beliefs. He said he hopes that unity and open-mindedness catch on.
“People get stuck in their own space,” Thalblum said. “Fear of the unknown is often what holds a lot of people back. It’s easy to vilify groups you know nothing about.
“Ultimately, I think you solve it (prejudice) by being willing to meet other groups,” he said. “It doesn’t mean you have to change who you are.”
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