Anti-Semitism, extremism focus of talk in West Bloomfield Twp.
This fall, the national American Jewish Committee released a survey that showed many Jews across the country believed anti-Semitism had increased "a lot" in the last five years.
For some among Metro Detroit’s estimated 70,000 Jews, it only confirmed their suspicions after reports of synagogues attacks, harassment and other instances reported by media, social media posts or conversations with friends.
“Every time that happens, it’s like, ‘Not again,’ ” said Audrey Bloomberg, program coordinator at Temple Shir Shalom in West Bloomfield Township. “Unfortunately, there’s a rise.”
The impact of that trend is the focus of a discussion her synagogue will host Monday night.
Presented in partnership with the JCRC/AJC, which represents the local Jewish community, "How Anti-Semitism Fuels Extremism in the U.S.” explores how the Anti-Defamation League is working to trace the source and address the surge.
A year after what is considered the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the U.S., and following federal officials recently thwarting an alleged plot to bomb a historic Jewish house of worship in Colorado, coordinators believe raising awareness can help stem the tide.
“These are things that are becoming more and more routine,” said Oren Segal, who directs the ADL’s Center on Extremism and leads the dialogue. “We need to be sober about what that means.”
The Monday event emerged after the ADL regional office fielded concerns from area residents in recent months, said Segal, whose center is the agency’s research and investigative arm.
That coincided with the ADL last month reporting 780 anti-Semitic incidents in the first half of the year. The group also found that since the October 2018 attack in Pittsburgh, at least 12 white supremacists had been arrested for alleged roles in terrorist plots, attacks or threats against the Jewish community.
Michigan was not immune, according to the league’s online Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism, Terrorism, or H.E.A.T, map, which culls information from police reports as well as other sources.
Between early 2018 and September, the map listed 65 white supremacist propaganda incidents and 21 anti-Semitic acts in the state. Those included a neo-Nazi group distributing anti-Semitic propaganda in Birmingham, defacing of a student memorial at Eastern Michigan University for the Pittsburgh victims, and swastikas spray-painted in Holly.
Meanwhile, Grand Rapids police are investigating anti-Semitic vandalism at the Temple Emanuel synagogue in the western Michigan city that gained national attention.
In the Upper Peninsula, officials reported graffiti that included Nazi symbols was found spray painted on a synagogue nearly two months ago.
Segal notes a proliferation of online platforms have had a role in spreading messages of hate and influencing others.
“Anybody has access to hate and extremism in ways that they haven’t had in human history,” he said. “The ways people are able to reach and recruit with radical ease — that impacts all communities. …Hate is more normalized today than I’ve seen in a while.”
The threat was on many worshipers’ minds during the High Holy Days, Bloomberg said, and interest in her congregation for the Monday talk has been high.
“No one wants to live in fear,” she said. “That’s why this event is important and a topic of conversation we need. … It’s relevant, it’s timely, it’s something everyone is aware and concerned about.”
To register, go to https://support.adl.org/OrenSegal/ or call (248) 353-1149.