Jewish Social Justice Organizations' Responses to Hate Crimes

Hannah Weilbacher

The Jewish Social Justice Roundtable is unified in our commitment to supporting vulnerable communities. With the rise of hate crimes against Muslims, Jews, and people of color, we know it's critical to stand up loudly, as Jews, to condemn bigotry and violence. 

Below are statements that have been published, so far, regarding this violence. They are from Bend the Arc, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Council of Jewish Women, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and T'ruah. Each organization brings their own perspective to their statements, and the statements share the following messages:

  • We connect the rise of violence with the current administration's policies and the attitudes they legitimize.
  • We call on the President to affirmatively condemn the violence and take action to stop future violence, which we fear is around the corner.
  • We are grateful to be in solidarity with Muslim-American communities as Jews - and that bond will only grow stronger, even as our fears are realized.

Here, also, are resources for fighting hate crimes:

Given that our communities are experiencing well-founded fear, we encourage any action taken to protect our communities to be grounded in a commitment to everyone's safety, not only the safety of American Jews. Please be in touch with [email protected] if you want to think through this together.



February 21, 2017 

Following comments by President Trump regarding a new wave of bomb threats directed toward Jewish centers across the country and the vandalizing of an historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc Jewish Action, released the following statement:

“President Trump was correct to say that this ongoing antisemitic violence is a ‘reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil.’ And he can back up those words by leading by example and cleansing the racism and bigotry that lay at the heart of his administration. He can start by firing Steve Bannon, his chief strategist and a purveyor of white nationalism and antisemitic rhetoric. He can also direct the Department of Justice to aggressively pursue investigations of all federal hate crimes, including the ongoing threats targeting the Muslim and Jewish communities. He can apologize for his use of antisemitic tropes and stereotypes throughout his presidential campaign. He can rescind his policies of religious discrimination and hatred, including ending once and for all his plans for a Muslim ban. And finally, when he is presented with opportunities to condemn antisemitism and white nationalism, he can respond appropriately and respectfully the first time instead of mocking those who dare raise the issue.

“All of these actions would be demonstrations of basic decency and respect by the president. His words today will be utterly meaningless if he fails to take genuine, concrete steps toward addressing the hatred he and his allies have inspired.” 

National Council of Jewish Women Condemns Anti-Semitic Incidents

March 2, 2017

NCJW applauds overwhelming support from interfaith communities, urges federal government to take definitive action to identify perpetrators behind recent threats and vandalism.


The recent wave of threats against Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries is distressing and alarming, but the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) appreciates the outpouring of support to the Jewish community from interfaith partners and the local mainstream communities who are directly impacted. Nancy K. Kaufman, CEO of NCJW, released the following statement:

“The recent incidents of anti-Semitism across the United States have deeply shaken the Jewish community. We are outraged by the recent bomb threats attempting to strike at the very core of our communities, where our children go to preschool and our parents lay to rest. Families’ and children’s sense of safety and security have been threatened. The desecration of Jewish cemeteries is abominable. 
“While President Trump has finally acknowledged these threats, the ongoing refusal to identify them as anti-Semitism is beyond troubling. We know all too well what can happen when anti-Semitism goes unchecked. We urge the administration to apply all resources necessary to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

“If there is a beacon of light in the waves of darkness, it is that Jewish communities across the country have seen an outpouring of support from the American Muslim community in the form of thousands of dollars raised to repair vandalized cemeteries and strong statements against anti-Semitic threats to our community centers. The friendships and partnerships we are building in the wake of tragedy will allow us to work together to speak out against threats to both communities and to build stronger ties between Muslim and Jewish Americans.”


JCPA Calls for Action Against Bomb Threats Against Jewish Community

Washington DC – The ongoing bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have sown fear in more than 100 Jewish communities and institutions across the country. “We call upon our public officials, in both word and deed, to do everything in their power to put a stop to these threats and incidents,” stated David Bernstein, President and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA).   

“We are heartened and appreciative that President Trump gave this issue top billing in his speech before Congress last night,” stated Cheryl Fishbein, Chair of the JCPA. “We urge the President to continue to speak out against these threats against the Jewish community and other minority groups in a timely and decisive manner.”

“Our public officials can create an environment in which such incidents are more or less likely to occur,” stated Bernstein. “The more our officials declare a commitment to an inclusive, bigotry-free society, the more likely radical elements will be kept in check.” 

On Monday alone more than 30 JCCs received bomb threats, a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia was desecrated and swastikas were found on playgrouds and sprayed on cars in several cities.  For some of these JCCs, this was the fourth or fifth threat received by these institutions in the past couple of months. Since January, there have been 101 threats to the Jewish community, including bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers, day schools, and communal organizations. 

Shockingly, hate crimes against African Americans, Muslims, minorities, and immigrants topped 1,000 during the same period.

In addition to issuing clear public statements, there is much more work to be done.  We urge the President, the Attorney General, and the FBI to spare no resources to investigate these new threats and bring the culprits to justice. 

We also call for implementation of the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) anti-hate recommendations:

  • Convene a federal inter-agency task force on Fighting Hate that brings together all the relevant agencies
  • Appoint a White House coordinator for Fighting Hate
  • Support federal and state-level legislation to protect students from increasing religious harassment and discrimination on college campuses
  • Train state and local law enforcement agencies led by the Department of Justice on how to handle hate crimes, including detection and response

We urge Jewish community institutions to reinforce a sense of safety and not allow these highly disruptive threats to deter participation in Jewish life. 

Leaders of All Faiths Show Their Support for the Jewish Community, a blog post by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism

February 27, 2017

These have been difficult days for our Jewish community, as we witness waves of hate and bigotry infecting our country. Seconds after news broke about last week’s round of JCC bomb threats, Rev. Dr. William J. Barber – one of today’s most preeminent religious voices for civil rights and social justice – texted me to offer his assistance. I’m more grateful than ever to have such a profound friendship and partnership with Rev. Barber as our faith communities work together toward a world of wholeness, justice, and equality.

Indeed, the outpouring of support in the wake of the hateful anti-Semitic acts of the past few weeks – including the vandalizing of a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia just days ago – has been remarkable and heartwarming. Muslim communities have helped raise funds to restore desecrated Jewish cemeteries, and we’ve seen statements from Pope Francis, the United Church of Christ and Disciples of Christ, the Adams Center, and others. Reform leaders across the U.S. have received similar messages of support from faith leaders in their communities.

I’ve been moved and deeply appreciative of these eloquent, strong statements. In my replies of thanks, I’ve promised to share these statements with the leaders of our community so that you may also be heartened by these wonderful expressions of love and solidarity. Below is a sampling of just a few of the messages we’ve received.

See more here.

The RAC: President Trump's Condemnation of Anti-Semitism Welcome and Overdue

February 21, 2017

In response to President Trump speaking out today for the first time against anti-Semitism, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the wider Reform Movement:

President Trump’s condemnation this morning of anti-Semitism is as welcome as it is overdue. Yesterday’s wave of bomb threats against JCCs nationwide, the fourth such wave in recent weeks, and the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Missouri, reflect the growing boldness of American anti-Semites.  Such incidents cannot be ignored or dismissed as aberrations; they must be loudly and unequivocally condemned from all quarters.

President Trump has been inexcusably silent as this trend of anti-Semitism has continued and arguably accelerated. The President of the United States must always be a voice against hate and for the values of religious freedom and inclusion that are the nation’s highest ideals. We urge President Trump to continue to speak out against anti-Semitism as he did today and to apply the full weight of the executive branch’s powers behind the effort to hold accountable the perpetrators of such hatred.

T'ruah: Statement on Latest Attacks on Jewish Cemetery, Mosques and Indian Visitors

February 27, 2017

T’ruah grieves for the recent spate of hate-crimes against Jews and Muslims. Our pain at the desecration of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia is intense, conjuring up so many of our people’s darkest times and worst fears. Just as Judaism teaches that burying the dead is the highest form of kindness that one can show, for the dead cannot return the favor, so too is defacing the dead an extreme form of attack, for the dead have no way to defend themselves.

And we share the fear and pain of our community as JCCs and Jewish Day Schools have been hit with yet another wave of bomb threats. Scaring children is an act of cowardice aimed at making our entire Jewish community feel less safe in America.

Our pain is different but no less severe at the arson perpetrated on a mosque in Tampa, and the murder and attempted murder of two men from India—targeted because they were foreigners—in Kansas. A hate-motivated attack on one religious minority is an attack on all of us and makes us all fearful of what America may become.

And these are only the latest in a serious surge in anti-Semitic and Islamophobic acts since the 2016 election, which have been fanned by the rhetoric of President Trump and his advisors and allies, and by their faint condemnations.

The ancient Temples in Jerusalem were the symbol of society and its cohesion. The Talmud (Yoma 9b) teaches, “The First Temple was destroyed because it was full of three things: idol worship, sexual violence, and murder…But the Second Temple, in which they occupied themselves with Torah, mitzvot, and deeds of kindness, why was it destroyed? Because of baseless hatred, to teach that baseless hatred is as weighty as the three prior sins—idol worship, sexual violence, and murder—combined.”

Prejudice and hatred have the power to unravel a society and lead to its demise. We must stand united against them and continue to build America as the country it has the potential to be: one of justice, freedom, and peace for all people. We express deep gratitude to the Muslim communities who have raised over $100,000 to repair the cemetery vandalized in St. Louis, and we remain resolved to fight aggression and intimidation by all nonviolent means at our disposal. We call on President Trump to condemn this wave of hate crimes in the strongest terms possible, to make a strong statement that diversity makes America stronger, and to make full use of the resources of the Federal government to investigate these crimes.