IUPUI Panel “Responding to Hate”

On Thursday, December 8, 2016, JCRC Program Director Lauren Morgan was invited to speak on a panel at IUPUI in response to the wave of hate incidents that have taken place in Indiana. Other panelists included Rima Shahid, Executive Director of the Muslim Alliance of Indiana, Marshawn Wolley, President of the Exchange Indianapolis Urban League, Amanda Bonilla, Assistant Director of Social Justice Education IUPUI, and Alice Jones, LGBT Advocate and Adjunct SPEA at IUPUI. The event was coordinated and facilitated by Khadija Khaja of the School of Social Work and Ian McIntosh of the Office of International Affairs.

Read the full text of Lauren’s opening remarks:

Good Afternoon. My name is Lauren Morgan, and I’m the Program Director for the Jewish Community Relations Council. The JCRC represents all the major synagogues and Jewish organizations in Indianapolis and the surrounding areas. Thank you to Khadija and Ian for coordinating this important discussion today.

The Jewish community is feeling very nervous. Jews remain the most targeted religious minority group for hate crimes nationally.

Locally, the JCRC has seen a spike in reported hate incidents over the past 18 months. We’ve seen swastikas appear at UIndy, Purdue, and Earlham college and in Bloomington and South Bend and a cemetery desecrated in Fort Wayne. We’ve seen threatening letters be sent to area synagogues. And we’ve fielded reports – sometimes as many as one per week – of Jewish students being harassed in elementary, middle and high schools across our city. Jewish students express fear of wearing religiously identifying clothing on campuses in Indiana – including this one.

Nationally, there was a 9% increase in hate crimes against the Jewish community over the past year. Jewish reporters have been identified and attacked online in ways not seen in recent memory simply for the fact that they are Jewish; look for the (((_ )))) around someone’s name on Twitter to see how pervasive the Antisemitism has become.

Just last week, I received a call from a Jewish student leader on Purdue’s campus; she and other Jewish students were horrified to see white supremacist flyers on Purdue’s campus which featured Nazi propaganda and wondered what they could do.

We refuse to allow hate-based rhetoric to become the new “normal” in our state. Two years ago, the JCRC committed itself to passing hate crimes legislation in Indiana. Indiana is just one of five states in the nation that does not have this legislation in place. Our government affairs director, David Sklar, who is here with us today, has been working tirelessly to build a coalition of nearly 30 organizations to press lawmakers in our state to support this legislation. If you’d like more information or would like to get involved with this effort, you can talk to David afterwards.

We think passing hate crimes legislation is a good step forward, but we need to start reaching out and speaking out more. We need to build relationships within our own community.

And that’s one of the reasons the JCRC just launched the Muslim Jewish Women’s Alliance with the Muslim Alliance of Indiana. We want to try to bridge the gap between the local Jewish and Muslim communities and work together on areas of common concern. We know that we can achieve more working together.

But we also have to very cognizant of the fact that we cannot just be minority groups working together. We also have to be reaching out and building relationships in the broader community – with people who might not understand what it feels like to be targeted because of the faith you practice or the color of your skin or your sexual orientation. And sometimes, that means we have to sit across the table with someone whose views we disagree with strongly in hopes that we can move the needle to reduce ignorance and intolerance in our society.

To me, this issue is very personal. I woke up on November 9th and laid in bed between my partner who is the son of two immigrants from the Dominican Republic and my son who was born with a Muslim biological father. Our son crawled into bed next to us that morning and the fear in our household was palpable as we watched the morning news recapping the election results. Even though he’s being raised by two Jewish parents, my son could be added to a Muslim registry, too.

My mother-in-law, who immigrated to this country and ran a business in New York City for nearly 30 years called me at work that afternoon and told me she’s not leaving the house – and she didn’t leave the house for a week after the election. She had a green card for many years, but she is a very proud Dominican and never saw the need to become a citizen until the “stop and identify” laws started being implemented across the country. So she obtained her citizenship. But she’s still nervous. After retiring to Indiana, my father-in-law began working part-time at Shapiro’s; in the week after the election, our JCRC received a call about a patron leaving Shapiro’s and being shouted at with anti-Jewish slurs as they exited. So I told them that he needs to be very careful when he’s going and coming from work. And I worry for both of their safety.

My son has had swastikas drawn on his paper at school by a fellow student who bragged that his grandfather was a general in Hitler’s army. And this is in elementary school. This is not normal.

I had a drink with a friend from the Jewish community two weeks after the election, and she told me she and her husband have had several very serious discussions about what their escape plan will be if things get bad in this country. And she looked at me and said, oh thank G-d that you guys have the DR to go to.

These are the conversations that are taking place in Jewish households throughout our community and throughout the nation. I will not accept this as a new normal. Our JCRC is committed to not just combatting Antisemitism, but also being an ally to fight systemic racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, and all other forms of bigotry. And we will do whatever we can, and I will do whatever I personally can, to make sure that this does not become the new normal in our society. We will stand up for oppressed and minority communities because this what our faith calls us to do. Thank you.