Mayors, Experts Come Together at 7th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism to Share Best Practices in Fighting Jew-Hatred at the Local Level
July 16, 2021
Prominent mayors, municipal leaders, and Jewish community experts from North America, Europe, and Israel on Wednesday jointly called for more concrete action in the fight against antisemitism and shared best practices for combating Jew-hatred in local communities. The participants took part in a specially convened panel entitled ‘Eradicating Antisemitism from our Streets: Tangible Solutions to Combat Antisemitism at the Local Level.’
The panelists shared best practices for how tackle the rise of antisemitic incidents and discourse in their communities and how to translate these into actionable solutions to prevent incidents of Jew-hatred at the local and municipal levels.
In today’s tense environment for Jewish communities around the world, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) convened this panel, recognizing that municipal leaders and community stakeholders can make the most immediate and lasting impact to secure and foster Jewish life in cities around the world. The panel was part of the 7th Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, organized by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which took place in Jerusalem.
The full panel can be viewed here:
Mayor of Frankfurt am Main, Uwe Becker, a member of CAM’s Advisory Board, who earlier this year hosted the first-ever Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism, offered opening remarks. He said that municipal leaders are “on the front line in the fight against antisemitism” and warned that “Antisemitism is not an abstract threat, but it takes place in the streets, schools and sports clubs of cities around the world, in our communities.”
Mayor Becker outlined that the keys to fighting antisemitism are education, as there is “a lack of knowledge… Most people in communities don’t know a single Jewish person” and in “the field of prosecution and law enforcement against groups spreading hate.” He summarized that “Antisemitism is a reflection of society as a whole, as it starts there but it penetrates other areas of society. I call for cooperation between local authorities to learn from each other and work together against antisemitism.”
Roko Kursar, First Deputy Mayor of Malmo, Sweden, outlined his city’s efforts to tackle antisemitism following a recent history of well documented antisemitic incidents. He noted that the city’s Jewish community is 150 years old and pledged “we are committed to their security.” He explained that the municipality has signed a 4-year agreement with the Jewish community “for a common fight against antisemitism and the preservation of Jewish life. We support this both financially and professionally.”
In particular, he noted “We are working together on educational programs for young children and adults, but the reports show we still have a lot of work to do together. Teachers point out the difficulty of dealing with antisemitism.” Kursar highlighted the importance of honoring Jewish life in the city, alongside Jewish organizations. He also noted existing programs for Jews and Muslims in Malmo, deepening connections between them and added “In October we will take a step forward in the fight against antisemitism by hosting a special forum on the fight antisemitism and Holocaust remembrance, and we ask participants to commit to concrete plans to fight antisemitism.”
Brig. Gen. (Res) Sima Vaknin-Gill, CEO of Strategic Impact and Senior Advisor to CAM warned that “antisemitism has become the ‘new normal’” and that “this new wave of antisemitism has been met with silence and denial.” She added that it left Jews with the “feeling of being alone against this huge wave of hatred”, especially in Western democracies where “those who claim to fight hatred” appeared to abandon Jews under attack.
In particular, Vaknin-Gill noted that in the fight against antisemitism “Mayors have the power to make a difference. They have a duty to maintain a safe environment for all residents and they also have the ability.”
Deborah Lauter, Executive Director of the New York City Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes also lent her experience to the round table discussion. Lauter noted, “We recognize that there is not one way to fight antisemitism and hate. You have to adopt a multifaceted approach.” Any approach, Lauter stressed “requires effective law enforcement, education, and community relations.”
Mark Gardner, Chief Executive of the Community Security Trust (CST) in the United Kingdom, shared his insight as the leader of one of Britain’s leading organizations fighting antisemitism on the ground. The CST manages a 24/7 national security control center to monitor antisemitic attacks and provides immediate aid and security to Jewish communities. The organization works closely with the British government and police. This being said, Gardner referred to the period between May 8th and June 7th as “the month of hate.” A report issued by the organization shows that there were 625 hate crimes against Jews in this period – a record number during “the worst year ever recorded.”
In the face of rising hate crimes around the world, Gardner emphasized the need for constant consultation and cooperation between civil society, the Jewish community, local police and government officials. He said, “The resources and partnerships need to be there before the crisis so that they can be activated when the crisis comes. And eventually the crisis always comes – when there is a terrorist attack or if there is a war in Israel.”
Numerous mayors who participated in the forum discussed the importance of providing municipalities and local leadership with opportunities and platforms to communicate with one another, share their experiences and identify ways to tackle antisemitism.
Lindsey Horvath, Mayor of West Hollywood, California said, “It is important to me as Mayor of West Hollywood, to stand committed and united with each and every one of you to root out antisemitism wherever it exists. Earlier this year I partnered with the U.S. conference of mayors…this was an important effort that has now gone global.”
Echoing Mayor Horvath’s statement, Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester in England said, “We strongly applaud your ambition to create a global coalition of Mayors against antisemitsm – a network that will provide every member city with the opportunity to share insights on tackling hate and prejudice as well as offering support to communities who are struggling with racist attacks.”
Haim Bibas, Mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut and the Chairman of the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel summarized the essence of the forum: “Mayors in cities around the world are the best line of defense for this kind of hate, because we handle the relevant services, whether education, legislation or law-enforcement. This is an issue which starts locally and if it does not stop there, it will spread nationally and internationally.”
Other panelists included Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, Eta Yudin, Vice President of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (Canada), and Holly Huffnagle, U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism at American Jewish Committee.