In response to concerns surrounding an increase in antisemitism in schools across the country, as well as in Southern California, Chabad of Coronado and ‘StandWithUs‘ held an informational briefing and discussion on October 25 about how current events in Israel are impacting the San Diego community.
Kai-Lee Berke opened her home to host the event and kicked it off saying, “As someone who has spent my whole professional life serving young children, their families, and their teachers… In our family we believe that all children deserve to feel safe in their homes, their communities and in their places of worship. The horror of the reports that continue to emerge and the speed with which messages of hatred and violence can spread is truly terrifying.” She went on to say, “as a Catholic woman who is married to a wonderful Jewish man, and the mother of two beautiful Jewish children, and the stepmother of two more… For me, one of the most important things StandWithUs does is to provide facts. Unfortunately, many people don’t have access to truthful information and social media algorithms can lead to an echo chamber of inaccurate information and the proliferation of dangerous ideology. Antisemitism sits alongside racism and sexism and homophobia as ideas that have no place in a civilized world. Having StandWithUs here tonight, gathered together in community to listen and hear from each other… this is a small but important way that we can help build a world that is inclusive, empathetic and kind.”
Her powerful remarks resonated with the group and set the tone for the event. Kai-lee then introduced the Executive Director of ‘StandWithUs’ San Diego, Oz Laniado, who was the keynote speaker for the event and shared insights into both the history and current situation in Israel. Laniado thanked religious leaders that joined the group, Rabbi Scott Meltzer, President of the San Diego Rabbinical Association and lecturer at San Diego State, Rabbi Eli Fradkin of Chabad Coronado and Father Mike Murphy of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Alexandra Murillo, who inspired this event and worked to bring it together quickly, was the moderator, asking Laniado questions and ensuring the most pertinent information was covered.
Murillo said, “I heard Oz speak at the StandWithUs Gala a few weeks back and his stories were so inspirational, I immediately asked him to speak here today to to talk with our community.” Landiado shared stories of the tragedy going on in Israel today that began weeks ago with the Hamas surprise attack killing more than 1,400 and injuring more than 4,500 people. Since the Hamas attack, there has been a significant rise in antisemitic events in the United States. StandWithUs is committed to educating schools and the public on the facts to deter antisemitism, especially in schools. According to the Anti Defamation League (ADL), “Early numbers from the ADL Center of Extremism show that reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault have increased by 388% over the same period last year.”
Guest Speaker Kate Chavez, the Executive Director of High School Affairs, StandWithUs, spoke about the themes they are seeing across Southern California and is determined to help educate school administrations to support their efforts in deterring antisemitism. Chavez said, “Every single day we are working with faculty, teachers, parents and community members to make sure they are getting the support that they need.”
Father Mike Murphy spoke next saying “It is good to be here in solidarity with you… In our time, antisemitism is a violation of the word of God and the will of God. And those who participate in these antisemitism rallies are promoting evil that angers God. We know that the power of prayer and God is greater than any evil, we pray for that, and we pray for the protection of all people… We are all children of God.” Father Murphy went on to read part of San Diego Cardinal Robert McElroy’s statement, “The heinous attack upon Israel by Hamas shocks the conscience of the Catholic community of San Diego and Imperial Counties and must be repudiated by all. We join in prayer with the people of Israel and our own Jewish community for the consolation of the victims and their families and the immediate release of the hostages.”
Rabbi Scott Meltzer spoke briefly saying that it was important that everyone come together in difficult times. Meltzer said, “there is hope for society but it starts by confronting evil… we will get through the darkest hour, dawn only follows the darkness, we all have to stand together to get through this darkness.”
Finally, Rabbi Eli Fradkin closed the discussion, talking about getting past the pain and looking forward to the strength, of the day we can “be a proud Jew, of being united, of being good neighbors, of caring for one another, and that is what the future of being a Jew looks like.” Fradkin then introduced Michael Bogart, trumpet player for the band the Tower of Power, who came to play the Israeli national anthem Hatikva, a song of hope and resilience.
According to their website, StandWithUs “empowers and energizes students and communities with leadership training and educational programs on hundreds of college campuses, high schools, and middle schools. StandWithUs informs through social media, print and digital materials, films, weekly newsletters, and missions to Israel.
Founded in 2001 and headquartered in Los Angeles, the organization has programs on six continents with chapters and offices throughout the U.S., Israel, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Brazil, and South Africa.”
For more information on StandWithUs visit their website at StandWithUs.com.