As acts of anti-Semitism continue to rise across the country, city, county and state leaders are speaking out loudly against recent acts of hate that have targeted the Chicago metropolitan Jewish community.
Since January, over 160 bomb threats have been called into Jewish Community Centers and Jewish days schools throughout the U.S. and Canada. In the Chicago area, bomb threats have caused the evacuations at JCCs in Hyde Park and Lake Zurich as well as a Chicago Jewish Day School in Edgewater.
"This hate is unbelievable and unacceptable," said Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, who earlier this week sponsored a resolution condemning hateful acts of violence and rhetoric directed at Jews and Muslims and reaffirming Cook County's commitment to fighting hate.
Noting reports of increased law enforcement patrols of religious institutions throughout the county, Boykin stated that "no child, no person, should ever have to fear for their safety, and the faithful should have an absolute expectation of safety in their houses of prayer."
Boykin's resolution, co-sponsored by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, was introduced at the March 8 Cook County Board Meeting and fully approved by a unanimous vote. The Jewish Federation testified in support along with Anti-Defamation League, AJC, and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
At the state level, Sen. Ira Silverstein (Rogers Park), Rep. Lou Lang (Skokie) and Rep. David McSweeny (Barrington-Cary) each filed resolutions condemning anti-Semitic crimes: S.R. 225 , H.R. 194 , and H.R. 193, respectively.
Earlier this week, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Gov. Bruce Rauner spoke out strongly against hate and anti-Semitism at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center's Humanitarian Awards Dinner .
"We cannot stay silent on hate," said Rauner, who outlined a number of objectives to protect minority communities from further hate crimes, which include improving law enforcement training and response on hate crimes and expanding hate crime education in schools.
"We have to have our voices heard," Emanuel said. "History cannot repeat itself."
Calling for stronger hate crime laws, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan organized a Hate Crime Summit on Feb. 23, which convened over 22 civil rights and advocacy organizations representing the Jewish, Muslim, African-American, refugee, LGBTQ, disability, and Latino communities.
Jane Charney, Director of Domestic Affairs for JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council, represented the Jewish Federation on a panel of advocates, and discussed recent attacks impacting Chicago's Jewish community. Charney highlighted JCRC's recent Interfaith Gathering Against Hate , which was convened in response to the vandalism at the Chicago Loop Synagogue, and discussed how that gathering sent a strong message that hate has no place in Chicago.
Chicago's City Council has also has shown strong support for the Jewish community. Over the last few months, the city responded to attacks on targeted minority and religious communities by promising to defend and protect the civil and human rights of all its residents, regardless of affiliation.
In January, the Jewish Federation testified in support of an anti-hate resolution sponsored by Ald. Ameya Pawar (Lincoln Square-North Center) that denounced anti-Semitic actions. The resolution , adopted by the full City Council, affirms support for all Chicago residents, particularly people of color, refugees, Muslims, Jews and members of LGBTQ community. The resolution specifically states, "We [Chicago] remain deeply committed to religious freedom, and will vigorously defend all Chicago residents from discriminatory treatment or persecution on the basis of their faith."
Other like-minded city council resolutions were adopted, which include statements opposing hate and bigotry such as R2106-977 , an anti-hate resolution introduced by Ald. Scott Waguespack (Bucktown-Lakeview-Logan Square) calling for condemnation of hateful speech and violent actions directed toward Muslims, immigrants and people of color, and SB2016-908, another resolution introduced by Pawar (Lincoln Square-North Center) and backed by Mayor Emanuel, re-affirming Chicago's support for the city's Welcoming Ordinance.
Cook County has also opened a 24/7 Hate Crime Hotline . If you believe you being harassed or targeted based on your race, religion, nationality, and/or sexual orientation, contact (773) 674-HELP.
JUF's Government Affairs team continues to monitor and support legislation that condemns anti-Semitic actions. For more information, please contact Mara S. Ruff, Associate Director of State and Local Government at MaraRuff@juf.org .