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Surge in Hate Crimes Must be a Call to Action

Surge in Hate Crimes Must be a Call to Action

No Hate

Last month, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) published its annual “Year in Hate and Extremism.” While the contents of this report are never pleasant and are often very challenging, this year’s report struck a particularly frightening chord. In the report, Mark Potok, Senior Fellow at SPLC and the author of the report called 2016 “a banner year for hate.”

According to the report, 1,094 bias incidences occurred in the 34 days after the election. To put this into perspective, there was a similar increase in bias-motivated incidences after President Obama won the presidency in 2008, but to a much lesser degree and the incidences were mostly anti-black. After the 2016 election, SPLC reported a leap in anti-Muslim hate incidences and anti-Muslim groups. This increase aligns with a two-year trend of rising anti-Muslim hate: The number of anti-Muslim hate groups increased 197%, from 34 in 2015 to 101 in 2016. The report goes on to detail an evolving landscape of hate in our country, where hatred is espoused not just by people in KKK robes, but by suit-wearing “alt-right” activists using modern tools of communication and organizing.

Jewish texts and traditions are riddled with messages of compassion and an emphasis to live without hate. Leviticus, however, goes beyond that, calling on us to stand up against hate. We are commanded, “You shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:16). This must be a call to action to stand up against hate, bigotry and bias in our society, with the intention and compassion that are inherent in Reform Judaism. The text continues, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart. Reprove your kinsman, but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countrymen. Love your fellow as yourself!” (Leviticus 19:17-18).

On March 15, 2017, Senator Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Representative Don Beyer (VA) introduced legislation (S. 622/ H.R. 1566) to strengthen our federal hate crime statutes. The No Hate Act would address this troubling trend of growing hate in four ways: (1) helping victims seek justice in the courts; (2) improving reporting of hate crimes; (3) establishing hate crime hotlines; and (4) rehabilitating perpetrators of hate crimes through education and community service. Urge your Senators and Representative to support the No Hate Act.  

Lizzie Stein is a leadership development associate at the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, where she previously served as an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant. In her current role, she leads fellowships for alumni of RAC programs and brings leadership skills training to the RAC’s L’Taken Social Justice Seminars and other programs. Lizzie also staffs the Urgency of Now: Transgender Rights Campaign. A graduate of Occidential College, she is a member of Temple Kol Ami in Phoenix, AZ, her hometown.

Lizzie Stein

Published: 3/23/2017