March 17, 2021
16 March 2021 (New York) – Municipal leaders from more than 32 cities across 21 countries took part today in the first-ever Mayors Summit Against Anti-Semitism, hosted by the Frankfurt am Main municipality in partnership with the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement (CAM). Participants including tens of city mayors pledged to make the summit the first step in establishing a long-term framework working towards defeating anti-Semitism, prejudice, and hatred.
With anti-Semitic attacks increasing across the world, anti-Semitism is often viewed as a national or international phenomenon. However, anti-Semitism is also a local problem manifesting itself in cities, towns and other localities – which can often best be solved through mayoral initiatives in the areas of education, law-enforcement, and community cohesion. The summit brought prominent mayors and local leaders together for a crucial dialogue, allowing them to share practical tools and solutions.
Key speakers included Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto, Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, Toronto Mayor John Tory, Intendant of Montevideo Carolina Cosse, Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema, Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close, Málaga Mayor Francisco de la Torre, Mayor of Riga Mārtiņš Staķis, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj, Poway Mayor Steve Vaus, Bal Harbour Mayor Gabriel Groisman, and Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova.
Frankfurt Mayor Uwe Becker warned, “When Jews, our citizens, ask themselves if they will have a safe and secure future in our cities; when boys don’t like to wear kippot [skullcaps] and decide to wear a baseball cap instead; when girls hide the Star of David on their necklaces … then it is not five to twelve but ten past twelve and we have to push back… It’s up to us to act.”
Outlining the multicultural nature of his city, Brussels Mayor Philippe Close commented, “The 10,000 citizens of Brussels of Jewish faith or culture, are often targeted by those who pretend to criticize the policies of the State of Israel in that manner… The crucial police protection of Jewish synagogues, schools, cultural centers, reflects a real threat…The identity of Brussels is multiple. The Jewish identity is an integral part of Brussels’ DNA. We will never give up on that.”
Buenos Aires Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta related to rising racism during the corona pandemic, saying, “In these challenging times of the pandemic, we are concerned about the rise of intolerance and violence around the world. Anti-Semitism, xenophobia and racism are ongoing threats to our societies. We must continue to work to prevent discrimination, promoting pluralism, valuing diversity, and raising awareness of the horrible consequences of intolerance.”
Commenting on the deadly attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in 2018, which killed 22 people and wounded 6, Pittsburgh Mayor William Peduto said, “I never expected that my city would be referred to as the city with the biggest anti-Semitic crime in the U.S…The only way to beat hate is with love. The only way to do that is by building over the years, a true feeling of community. In Pittsburgh we are proud of our interfaith community – Christians, Muslims and Jews working together to find ways to bring peace in our community. Only through that type of cooperation, can we overcome a day like this one, that brought the city to its knees.”
Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis highlighted the importance of education, saying, “Historically, antisemitism has been the result of lies and disinformation. We will actively discourage any sort of discrimination or any attempt to weaponize the Holocaust. We believe in a proactive approach, in a culture of education. Although its works slowly, it is more effective in the long run. Education plays an important role in countering social discrimination and we want to be practical.”
Toronto Mayor John Tory promoted inclusivity, remarking, “Here in Toronto, in the most diverse city in the world, we have a special responsibility as we work to becoming the most inclusive city in the world. We have a special responsibility to stand up, to speak and to show up… There is no such thing as a small incident or a small event when it comes to discrimination or the stigmatization of a people.”
Amsterdam Mayor Femke Halsema highlighted institutional intolerance, saying, “It is sad, but we still need to be vigilant, not only for Jews but also Muslims and other minorities that are at risk. In Amsterdam we invest in the protection of synagogues, mosques, and other religious buildings. Nevertheless, protection is not enough. Words matter. As Mayor of Amsterdam, I have a responsibility to fight the sources of structural racism and institutional discrimination.”
Riga Mayor Mārtiņš Staķis reflected on his city’s Jewish heritage, saying, “Jewish history in Riga is 450 years long… Sadly, now there are only 5000 Jews in Latvia. At the same time, I am happy that active life of the Jewish community takes place in Riga… Yes, hatred, intolerance towards the other, anti-Semitism still exist. These evils exist also in Riga. That is why it is my obligation as the Mayor of Riga… to create a safe and tolerant environment for all people and all nations.”
Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova vowed to make tackling anti-Semitism a priority, saying, “You can count on the European Commission to remain committed to fighting anti-Semitism. I have personally made it a top priority during my term in office. Anti-Semitism isn’t only a problem for Jewish people, it is a problem for European society as a whole… To complement member states’ efforts, the European Commission will present the first ever comprehensive European strategy on combatting anti-Semitism and fostering Jewish life at the end of this year.”
Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Michael O’Flaherty commented on the societal dangers of anti-Semitism, commenting “Anti-Semitism is a serious problem in our societies, and it is getting worse. This is not just a problem for the Jewish community – it is a problem for all of us, it is a challenge to the values on which we base our societies and our communities. Here in Europe, if we fail our Jewish community then we have failed as the modern European project.”
Session topics included education and the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, where participants included Vaughan Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua and Human Rights Commissioner of the City of Vienna Shams Asadi. Another panel on legislation, security and law enforcement included US Senator for Nevada Jacky Rosen and Mayor of San Luis Obispo Heidi Harmon. A panel discussing interfaith and cross-communal relations included Director of the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights Michael O’Flaherty, Head of Faith-Based Partnerships at Facebook Nona Jones and Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh Frank Ross.
Partners in the summit included the Jewish Federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
The Combat Anti-Semitism Movement is a non-partisan, global grassroots movement of individuals and organizations, across all religions and faiths, united around the goal of ending anti-Semitism in all its forms. Since its launch in February 2019, 310 organizations and 310,000 individuals have joined the Combat Anti-Semitism Movement by signing the campaign’s pledge. The CAM Pledge draws upon the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism and its list of specific behaviors used to discriminate against the Jewish people and the Jewish State of Israel.
A recording of the event can be viewed in full here.