Hearing held to discuss alleged anti-Semitic acts

Officials gathered to discuss the recent rise of alleged anti-Semitic acts in the Northeast.

Acts of hatred: State Rep. Kevin Boyle requested the hearing to discuss recent incidents in the Northeast, including rocks thrown through windows at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Tacony, and the more than 270 tombstones overturned at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Wissinoming (pictured above). TIMES FILE PHOTO

State Rep. Kevin Boyle (D-172nd dist.) recently hosted a House Democratic Policy Committee public hearing at Congregations of Shaare Shamayim, focusing on the recent rise of alleged anti-Semitic acts in the Northeast.

Boyle requested the hearing to discuss recent incidents, including rocks thrown through windows at Temple Menorah Keneseth Chai in Tacony, and the more than 270 tombstones overturned at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Wissinoming.

Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla joined the discussion.

“A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League stated that anti-Semitic incidents in Pennsylvania have increased by 71 percent this year,” Boyle said. “I could not stand by and continue to hear of these stories of vandalism, harassment and vulgar acts against our neighbors and not take further action. When teachers are receiving anti-Semitic letters with feces, or people are caught urinating on a religious building, there is a clear lack of respect and disregard for others. My hope is that following today’s discussion, we can determine a course of action that will significantly reduce the number of these unfortunate incidents.”

Sturla said, “Acts of hate, terrorism or racism against any group of people is inexcusable. As today’s testifiers indicated, we must work together to stop these anti-Semitic acts and encourage people to respect one another.”

The committee heard testimony from Jeremy Bannett, associate regional director, Anti-Defamation League; lawyer Naomi Adler, president and CEO, Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Michele Foster, president-elect, Hadassah Greater Philadelphia Region; and Chuck Feldman, president, Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center.

“ADL has watched the latest rise in anti-Semitism with grave concern, and we are calling for ‘all hands on deck’ to combat the surge in anti-Jewish hate,” Bannett said. “Pennsylvania has an opportunity to become a national leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry. We are pleased to offer our recommendations to help lawmakers empower law enforcement, equip educators and support all Pennsylvanians in effectively responding to hate.

“We are grateful to Chairman Mike Sturla, Rep. Boyle and the Pennsylvania House Democratic Policy Committee for convening this important public hearing. Fighting hate is nonpartisan, and ADL looks forward to working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to reduce anti-Semitism in the commonwealth.”

In written testimony, ADL shared the results of its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released last month, which revealed a 71-percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents in Pennsylvania in the first three quarters of 2017.

ADL offered a series of policy recommendations that encouraged lawmakers to strengthen Pennsylvania’s hate crimes, cyber harassment and anti-bullying laws; provide training to law enforcement on investigating and reporting hate crimes; promote anti-bias education in public schools; form a Hate Crimes Prevention Task Force; and adopt ADL’s guidelines from its “How Elected Officials Can Respond to Hate.” ••