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Massachusetts Mayors Stand Up Against Antisemitism 

By Stacey Dresner

Several mayors from around Massachusetts have joined more than 250 mayors around the country in signing a Statement in Support of “Mayors United Against Antisemitism.”

Massachusetts mayors to sign the statement include Michael P. Cahill of Beverly; Yvonne M. Spicer of Framingham; Alex B. Morse of Holyoke; Gary Christenson of Malden; Jon Mitchell of New Bedford; Ruthanne Fuller of Newton; David J. Narkewicz of Northampton; Kimberley Driscoll of Salem; Domenic J. Sarno of Springfield; William C. Reichelt of West Springfield; and Joseph M. Petty of Worcester.

“We stand in solidarity with our Jewish brothers and sisters and recognize that acts of antisemitism harm us all and they cannot and will not be tolerated,” said Springfield’s Mayor Sarno. “I know many understand the ever-present need to speak out against hate and will join me today in explicitly condemning antisemitism in all its forms. In addition, we will continue to promote values of acceptance, coexistence, and community as well as educate and learn from each other.”

“After four years of dog whistles and outright incendiary language from the former president, it is important that we recommit ourselves to the preservation of the American ideals of inclusion and tolerance,” said Worcester Mayor Joseph M. Petty. “We cannot afford for the spread of racism to continue unabated. I am proud that Worcester is a welcoming city to people of all races and ethnicities and that will not change.”

Hundreds of mayors from across the country gathered virtually for the U.S. Conference of Mayors’ (USCM) 89th Winter meeting from Jan. 21 – 23 to discuss issues such as the ongoing COVID-19 response and recovery, vaccine distribution, racial equity, climate change, gun violence prevention, immigration, and cyber-security. 

On Jan. 27 – International Holocaust Memorial Day — the AJC and the Conference of Mayors launched the initiative by calling on the nation’s mayors to the statement declaring that antisemitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.

“Antisemitism is a growing societal menace, it comes from multiple sources, and mayors are uniquely positioned to lead their cities in taking concerted steps to fight it,” said AJC CEO David Harris. “By launching this joint effort on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we recall the darkest period of genocide against the Jewish people, and the constant need for vigilance to guard against any and all forms of anti-Semitism.”

The statement by Mayors United Against Antisemitism:

“Five years ago, U.S. mayors from all 50 states issued a call to action to combat antisemitism in Europe. Since then, vicious attacks on American soil have demonstrated that antisemitism must be confronted with the same urgency in the United States. These include the October 2018 killing of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pa.; the murder of Jews at a synagogue in Poway, California; and attacks against Jews in Jersey City, N.J. and Monsey, N.Y.simply for being Jews.

“We witnessed chants of “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville and “Camp Auschwitz” and other antisemitic messages displayed during the assault on the U.S. Capitol. According to the FBI 2019 Hate Crimes Statistics, American Jews—who make up less than 2% of the American population—were the victims of 60.2% of anti-religious hate crimes.

And so we gather again, as leaders of our cities and communities, to jointly say: “Enough.” We, the undersigned Mayors, express our deep conviction that antisemitism is not only an attack on Jews but an assault on the core values of any democratic and pluralistic society. In a world of global communications, where antisemitic ideas spread rapidly, a concerted and principled response is required to raise awareness, to educate, and to ensure decency prevails. As Mayors and municipal leaders, we have a unique responsibility to speak out against the growing menace of antisemitism by affirming the following: 

We, the undersigned, 

• Condemn antisemitism in all its forms, including hatred and prejudice directed toward Jews, stereotypes or conspiracy theories about Jews, Holocaust denial or distortion, and denying the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and/or the Jewish state’s right to exist; 

• Support national, state, and local government efforts directed at eradicating antisemitism and preventing extremist indoctrination and recruitment; and support expanded education programs, including Holocaust programs, to counter intolerance and discrimination; 

• Reject the notion that opinions about the policies, actions, or existence of the State of Israel can ever justify or excuse antisemitic acts; 

• Recognize the ever-present need to be vigilant about efforts to prevent and report acts of antisemitism and other hate crimes; and 

• Affirm that a climate of mutual understanding and respect among all citizens is the bedrock of pluralistic communities. We therefore commit to working within and across our communities to advance the values of respectful coexistence. We call upon mayors, municipal leaders, and other elected officials in the United States and around the world—and all people of good faith—to join us in declaring unequivocally that antisemitism is incompatible with fundamental democratic values.”

The leaders of local Jewish Federation thanked the mayors from their cities for their support.

“This does not come as a surprise to us as Mayor Sarno has repeatedly demonstrated his support of the Jewish Community,” said Stewart L. Bromberg, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Western Mass. “Our local community leaders stand strongly against acts of anti-Semitism and other expressions of hate around the world. They stand ready to support and help us whenever hate tries to pull us apart.”

“We are grateful to Mayor Petty for recognizing the importance of this initiative,” added Steven Schimmel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Central Mass. “Worcester is a very welcoming city for Jewish life, and it is fortunate that our mayor is working to ensure that continues.”

Main Photo: Mayor Joseph Petty and Mayor Domenic Sarno

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