LOS ANGELES, California — If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It’s a lesson that is embedded in us as children that many think has dissolved.
“Well we know that hatred breeds hatred. When you’re in an environment in which there’s a little bit of racism that’s acceptable so a lot of racism will soon flourish,” said Rabbi Sharon Brous.
Most recently Rabbi Sharon Brous’ words are directed at the rise in antisemitism.
“And we see how violent language has to led to and will continue to lead to actual acts of violence, which really raises the stakes on our responsibility to respond to this hateful language when we hear it,” Brous said.
As the Senior and Founding Rabbi of IKAR, a leading-edge Jewish community, she emphasizes that antisemitism doesn’t just affect the 2% of the US population that are Jewish.
“It’s not embarrassing to be a racist, an antisemite, a bigot, a homophobe, a transphobe, it’s not embarrassing for people anymore. The shame has been taken out of that kind of racism and bigotry and that’s very dangerous for all of us,” Brous said.
Los Angeles is a city experts point to that showcases the diversity of the Jewish faith, and that’s exactly why Rabbi Noah Farkas, the President and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, says we can’t discuss antisemitism without connecting the consequences it has to many people.
“There are white Jews and people of color who are Jews, there are Jews from the middle east, and Jews from Morocco, Jews from Latin America, Jews from Russia and Ukraine, Jews from Israel that live here. Jews from Iran that live here, which are all separate, their own separate minorities,” Farkas said.
“The last several years we’ve seen a 300% rise in antisemitism. What might start with antisemitism, might end with misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Asian hate, anti-black racism, it can lead in all these different directions. White supremacy in that way just in that vein fuels all of that,” he said.
“It means that when antisemitism manifests in our society in this way, it’s actually a danger not only to Jews but it’s a danger to democracy. It’s a danger to movements for justice in our country,” Brous said.
One of the more prominent issues these Rabbis see is the current level of societal tolerance.
“We’ve become inured to new levels of violence, new levels of hate speech, new levels of hate actions hate crimes,” Farkas said.
This is one reason law enforcement agencies are encouraging reporting.
Detective Jan Wong, a Hate Crimes Coordinator with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said, “Even though it may be a non-criminal hate incident, we will take it very seriously as a law enforcement agency.”
Wong said, “Today is hate speech and it’s non-criminal but tomorrow it might be a crime or it might lead to a crime.”
Both as a detective and as a human being, she recognizes that diversity within their department is one of their great strengths.
“For me especially, as an Asian American, I grew up in the community that I now serve in law enforcement in, you see some of these crimes or incidents and you think well that could be my mom that could be my family member,” Wong said.
The same goes for these rabbis who say their focus is on always speaking up and standing beside allies.