Reform Jewish Leader Condemns Rise in Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

March 4, 2021

WASHINGTON – In response to the rise in hate crimes against Asian-Americans since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, released the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the wider Reform Movement institutions:

The surge in hate crimes against Asian-Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is a shameful stain on the nation. According to new data, major cities across the United States have seen triple-digit percentage increases in hate crimes directed at Asian-Americans over the last year, including a ninefold increase in New York City. Many of these attacks have targeted Asian-American elders, such as the brutal murder of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco.

These horrific attacks do not occur in a vacuum: they spring from the same climate of xenophobia, bigotry, and white supremacy that led to hate-fueled killings in Charlottesville, Pittsburgh, El Paso, and too many other communities. In 2019, the FBI reported a record number of hate crime murders—a crisis deeply felt in the Jewish community, as we have confronted an alarming rise in antisemitic hate crimes since 2017. The wrongful scapegoating of Asian-Americans and slurs against Asian nations by elected officials and prominent figures during the pandemic has caused deep pain and anxiety among Asian-American communities, which includes Jewish Asian-Americans. As Jews of many backgrounds, we have felt similar pain throughout our own historical experiences: Jews were senselessly blamed for the Black Death in medieval Europe, and similar tropes are still perpetuated today, leading to antisemitic violence and persecution.

We stand in solidarity with the Asian-American community in the face of bigotry and violence. We call on all elected officials to forcefully denounce these hate crimes and provide resources to appropriately respond to this surge in violence. This includes Congress passing the Jabara-Heyer NO Hate Act to strengthen hate crime reporting and response. As we tackle the dual crises of COVID-19 and racial inequity, we must work to ensure accountability for hate crimes and justice for Asian-American communities, come to better understand our own biases and false belief systems, and put an end to the culture of xenophobia that fosters hateful actions.


The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the social justice office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 850 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit for more.