A Message from our Executive Director and President . . .
Over the weekend, Jews across our country were once again forced to consider what it means to be Jewish in America during this era of rising antisemitism. We remembered what it felt like to hear about Pittsburgh and Poway. We prayed that this time, it would be different. We are relieved that the situation ended with all the hostages being released with what appears to be minimal physical harm. Yet we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that the emotional impact of what occurred will continue to live on for the individuals and families affected. We also understand that it may affect many of us as well. If you feel you need to speak with someone about your reactions or feelings, please contact our community social worker. We are here to help.
Every time we walk into a synagogue, every time we drop our children off at Jewish schools, every time we think about whether we wear our Magen David or Chai necklaces inside or outside of our clothing, or whether or not to wear a kippah, we have to think about the consequences. The hostage incident in Colleyville only reinforced this.
We have Holocaust survivors and their families who are thinking, could this really be happening again, here? We have B’nai Mitzvah students who now have to contemplate how their friends of other faiths may respond when they are invited to celebrate their special day at synagogue. We have parents who are considering the physical safety of their children when they consider how to nurture their children’s Jewish identity, and who struggle with how and how much to tell their young ones about what's happening in our country and our communities. It is simply unconscionable.
Our Jewish Federation has been thinking about these challenges for many years now. In 2019, the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), a committee of the Jewish Federation of Howard County, worked closely with the Howard County Police Department and the Department of Homeland Security to sponsor a community-wide Safety and Security Summit. This summit, which was attended by members of all faith-based communities, provided people with specific instructions for how to respond to, and prevent, possible attacks.
In 2020, the JCRC identified antisemitism as one of the three key issues that it was focused on. And in 2021, after much research and consultation was completed, the following recommendations were made regarding the JCRC’s role in addressing antisemitism in Howard County:
1. Report, Monitor and Respond
2. Build Relationships and Alliances
3. Educate and Create Public Awareness
Our full antisemitism report along with our recommendations and next steps will be published soon. For now, we feel grateful that what occurred in Colleyville was an isolated incident. Throughout the situation, the leadership of the Jewish Federation of Howard County was receiving regular updates from our partners at the Secure Community Network, the official homeland security and safety initiative of the organized Jewish community in North America, to ensure there was no threat in our area.
If you are interested in being involved in the JCRC and how we address antisemitism in our community, please reach out to JFrankel@JewishHowardCounty.org.
Joel Frankel, Executive Director
Rachael Simon, President