[Enquirer] Antisemitic banners won't succeed in 'othering' Jews.

By Danielle V. Minson, CEO, Jewish Federation of Cincinnati & Rabbi Ari Jun, Director, Jewish Community Relations Council

Originally published in the Cincinnati Enquirer, March 21, 2024.

In the early hours of Saturday, March 16, Cincinnati awoke to a deeply unsettling scene: banners proclaiming "Save Ireland from the Jews" displayed on a bridge at Columbia Parkway and another at the overpass at Interstate 75 and Hopple Street. This ludicrous message, suggesting a Jewish threat to Ireland, echoes the age-old, harmful stereotype that Jews are behind the world's problems. Thankfully, within an hour, our community’s swift response saw these banners removed, a testament not only to our vigilance, but also to our strong partnerships and our ability to mobilize quickly as one.

In the wake of Oct. 7, American Jews have seen a quadrupling of antisemitic incidents − with similar increases in Cincinnati. These antisemitic incidents have extended far beyond bridges and overpasses. In our community, unsettling incidents have left many college students, staff, and faculty feeling unsafe and misunderstood. Additionally, we have observed a rise in hate speech within some of our public and private schools, causing concern among students and their parents. In the workplace, too, there have been reports of marginalization of Jewish employees.  

We’ve sought to be part of the solution to such problems. Teaming up with Hillel and Chabad, we engaged with senior leadership at a local university. This collaboration resulted in the formation of a task force to combat antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus and led to the university joining Hillel International’s Campus Climate Initiative − a program that partners with universities to assess and tackle campus antisemitism.

Danielle V. Minson, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, gives a speech during the Community Solidarity Gathering for Israel event at Adath Israel Congregation in Amberley, Ohio, Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. Hundreds of people gathered in the synagogue Tuesday night to express solidarity with Israel, including Cincinnati Mayor Aftab Pureval, Ohio Rep. Sara Carruthers, Holocaust survivor Zahava Rendler and many leaders from the Cincinnati Jewish community.

Similarly, when one of our public schools encountered challenges understanding and identifying antisemitic language, we stepped in. Our support is helping their board develop a new, comprehensive policy addressing identity-based hate speech, filling a critical gap in protections for Jewish, Muslim, and all other students who experience pernicious discrimination.

Furthermore, in the business community, we’ve collaborated with CEOs, HR teams, and DEI experts, conducting training sessions aimed at creating more inclusive workplaces for Jewish employees. We extend our sincere thanks to all the leaders at these institutions for their openness, leadership, and commitment to fostering a more inclusive and understanding community.

These actions underscore our and our partners' commitment not only to responding to antisemitism − evident in our prompt removal of the "Save Ireland from the Jews" banners − but also to engaging with institutions and leaders to enact change for all marginalized communities.

At our recent Jewish Community Relations Council annual meeting, Dara Horn, author of the prize-winning, provocatively named book, "People Love Dead Jews," highlighted the importance of authentic relationships and diverse viewpoints that are vital for inclusive communities. Horn encourages us to see Jews as proactive contributors to society, shifting the focus from passive victims etched into history's margins, to vital agents who shape society. This shift highlights Jewish achievements beyond persecution narratives, focusing on our significant societal contributions. The Jewish community’s accomplishments are intertwined with Cincinnati’s growth.

Antisemitic banners like last Saturday’s will not succeed in othering us − ultimately, they only strengthen our resolve. Faced with antisemitism and discrimination, we are more determined than ever to build an inclusive community rooted in resilience, hope, and respect for all. By uniting with our allies, we aim to transform adversity into a shared vision of peace and to demonstrate that solidarity is our strongest weapon against hate.


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