Antisemitism in Our Community and Communal Support

A note from Rabbi London 

The past three and a half weeks since October 7 have been an incredibly difficult time as we have been reeling from the atrocities committed by Hamas, the ongoing war, the loss of loved ones, and the fact that well over 200 people, including many children and elderly, are still being held hostage in Gaza. In addition to our grief at the events we are witnessing in Israel and Gaza, we are contending with a deeply troubling surge in antisemitism here at home. I want to share with you some of the steps we have taken at Beth Emet to address this horrific development in antisemitism and to support our community.

First, out of an abundance of caution, we have increased our security at the synagogue. We have shared with the congregation our safety protocols, which are based on the expert advice of security professionals. With guidance from these consultants, we continue to monitor the situation and will adjust our procedures as needed.

To help us respond to the antisemitism we are facing, the Union for Reform Judaism is compiling a list of resources and techniques for best-addressing antisemitism in our communities. We will also share that information with the congregation as soon as it is available.

I know that parents of college students are particularly concerned about antisemitism on campus. Rabbi Jessica Lott, who is the rabbi at Northwestern Hillel, is preparing some materials to pass along to parents of college students who may be experiencing antisemitism on their campuses. We will forward it as soon as we receive it.

I have also been in touch with parents of students at Evanston Township High School (ETHS) and another area high school about how the schools are responding to antisemitic speech and incidents. Representatives of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago have also met with Superintendent Marcus Campbell of ETHS, and I will also be meeting with Dr. Campbell about ensuring a safe and secure environment for Jewish students.

On Saturday afternoon, demonstrators plan to hold a pro-Palestinian rally in Evanston’s Fountain Square. People have every right to demonstrate peacefully in the United States. However, we are concerned that this demonstration could become volatile or antisemitic. I strongly urge people not to attend the protest or to counter protest.

These frightening times call for vigilance. We must report to the police, our school administrators and other public officials any and every incident of hate speech, violence or threat of violence. I urge you to bring any such incidents to my attention and that of our Board.

These times also call for courage, which we can summon by showing pride in our community, our Jewish faith and our Jewish identity and by reaching out to one another with acts of kindness, love and support. We are all going through a hard time together and we need to support each other.

In addition to worship services, the support Marci and Kathy are providing for teachers and families, and the listening circles the officers facilitated last weekend, we are developing other ways to help us emotionally, contend with issues in Israel and our own community, and support a kibbutz near Gaza that has been displaced to the Dead Sea since the attacks. Please refer to Emetmail later today to learn about these activities.

Cantor Young, the Klei Kodesh, lay leadership, and I remain committed to making our congregation a safe haven in the storms that are swirling around us. If you need support or guidance, please contact us via email or set up an appointment to see us.

With prayers for well-being and security,

Rabbi London