The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), which represents the organized Jewish community in central Indiana, is appalled by the disgusting antisemitic vandalism, including large nazi flags, swastikas, and imagery, which was discovered at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla in Carmel, Indiana on Saturday afternoon, July 28.
The JCRC has been in regular communication with – and coordinating efforts among – leaders of the synagogue and other local Jewish communal institutions and organizations, as well as with law enforcement, elected officials at all levels of government, and several national organizations, all eager to ensure that our community feels supported and secure.
Of course, the JCRC condemns and denounces in the strongest possible terms this abhorrent act of hate. Like all hate crimes, the attack is meant to terrorize our entire community, fragment us from other communities, and tear at the very fabric of our society. It will not work. The Jewish community refuses to allow such expressions of hate to become “normal” and we will continue to assert that respecting and celebrating our differences can – and do – make for a stronger society. Expressions of hatred like this are direct affronts to American and Jewish values of inclusivity and pluralism. Respect for diversity is at the very core of our national identity, is vital for our democracy to thrive, and is among our most cherished values as Americans and as Jews.
Expression of Thanks
There can be no equivocation when it comes to rejecting Nazism, white supremacy, and antisemitism. We are grateful to our local, state and congressional office-holders, law enforcement professionals, civic leaders, and interfaith partners, who have universally and forcefully denounced this extremism. We also sincerely appreciate the support of our interfaith and community partners, and Hoosiers from all over the city and state who have called, written, posted on social media, and stopped by Shaarey Tefilla to express their solidarity. Please visit the JCRC facebook page to see statements of support offered by elected officials and faith communities.
Antisemitism on the Rise
Anti-Jewish hatred and acts of violence are not a thing of the past. While we are horrified that this particular act of vandalism took place in our backyard, we are unfortunately not surprised that it happened, as expressions of antisemitism, reports of anti-Jewish incidents, and outright violent attacks against Jews are increasing at an alarming rate here in the United States, in Europe, and around the world.
A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League highlighted that the number of reported antisemitic incidents was nearly 60% higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record, and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s. The same report highlighted that the Midwest saw a 113% increase in 2017 compared to 2016. And the 2017 Jewish Community Study (conducted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Indianapolis) revealed that nearly 30% of Jewish teens in central Indiana have experienced antisemitism in the last year, the third-highest reporting community in the country.
Lack of Hate Crimes Statute in Indiana
Since 2014, the central Indiana Jewish community’s top legislative priority has been to pass a comprehensive hate crime statute in Indiana. According to FBI reports Jews are, and have historically been, the number-one victims of religiously-motivated hate crimes in the United States. In addition to our advocacy efforts in the halls of the Indiana State House, we
have helped lead the building of a statewide coalition (Indiana Alliance Against Hate), which now has over 100 member organizations, and have travelled the state to educate Hoosiers on why this legislation is so important. A nation’s laws should reflect its social contract with all of its citizens. Adding a law addressing crimes based on prejudice would help align our laws with American values, and would send a strong message that hate-based violence in Indiana is anathema to our state’s fundamental values of freedom and equality.
But here we are again, having witnessed another hate-motivated crime in Indiana knowing that we are one of only five states in the country without a hate crimes law. We also recognize that we are not the only community to have faced this kind of threat in recent months, as attacks have been directed at our friends and neighbors in the Black, LGBTQ, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh communities. We thank those state legislators who have joined us in championing this issue by continuing to author the legislation and work for its progress through the legislature year after year. More of their colleagues, however, must join them.
The JCRC is calling on all members of the Indiana General Assembly, and all statewide elected officials, to unequivocally send the message that Hoosiers will no longer tolerate crimes motivated by bias and hatred by passing a comprehensive bias crimes statute!
What You Can Do
As we witness expressions of hate and violence against Jews or members of other minority communities, it becomes incumbent upon all of us to help make sure that hatred is not allowed to take hold or force us to live in fear. Here are a few things you can do now:
- Attend the Community Solidarity Gathering at Congregation Shaarey Tefilla at 6pm on Monday, July 30.
(3085 West 116th Street Carmel, Indiana 46032)
- Visit the “Indiana Alliance Against Hate” website or facebook page, learn about the comprehensive bias crimes bill, and then urge your state legislator and other statewide officials to make passage of the bill a top priority during the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly.
- Talk to your family members, friends, and co-workers about the need to speak out immediately in the face of hate to ensure that extremists remain at the fringes of our society, and that bigotry is never allowed to take hold anywhere in our country.
As a community with a long history of facing discrimination and violence, the Jewish community will always stand with those who may be singled out for how they look, where they’re from, who they love, or how they pray. We will continue to build bridges of understanding by fostering respect and collaboration among Hoosiers of all faiths, races, ethnicities, and genders. Only by standing together, and declaring categorically that antisemitism and racism have no place in our communities, can we successfully combat the spreading of this pernicious extremism.
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