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This Hanukkah season, Jewish leaders are shining a light on antisemitism in Northeast Ohio

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Posted at 8:23 AM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-30 08:23:00-05

BEACHWOOD, Oh. — Hanukkah is known as the festival of lights within the Jewish community.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland celebrated the holiday with a public menorah lighting ceremony Monday evening, on the second night of Hanukkah, championing the message that light will outshine darkness in the world.

“We are gathered here together, both Jews and our non-Jewish allies, to shine a light on antisemitism and on hatred in general,” said Bradley Sherman, the chairman for the 2022 Campaign for Jewish Needs.

The organization is one of many throughout the nation that are taking part in the ’Shine a Light’ campaign. It’s an initiative to highlight the rise of antisemitism through education and advocacy.

Leaders such as Sherman, Cleveland City Council President-Elect Blaine Griffin, Global Cleveland President Joe Cimperman, Reverend Sharon Core and others gathered to speak out against antisemitic acts and rhetoric in Northeast Ohio.

“We are going to work together with them to eradicate racism,” said Griffin.

Sherman believes there has been a misunderstanding of the Jewish faith that is translating into antisemitism and compared social media to gasoline that lights that fire.

According to the FBI, hate crimes rose steadily in 2020. Specifically, the FBI’s hate crime data indicated that nearly 55% of all religious-motivated crimes targeted Jews, who are just 2% of the population.

“We’ve had anti-Jewish graffiti and swastikas on our buildings. We’ve had Jewish kids who were walking home from school, they were attacked with paintballs,” he said. “It’s from both sides. It’s from people on the right and on the left.”

Sherman said they’ve increased security throughout the area.

“Five years ago the budget for security in the Jewish community was a couple $100,000, this year we are spending millions and millions of dollars to keep the synagogues and our day schools and our public buildings safe because we are constantly getting threats.”

Rachel Uram is a part of the American Jewish Committee. It is an international Jewish advocacy group that has a regional office in Cleveland. She spoke to the crowd at Monday’s menorah lighting and shared her own terrifying account of antisemitism towards her.

“When it happened to me I was utterly stunned,” she told the crowd.

She recounted a time when she and her husband were on vacation in California and were walking on a public street.

“We passed a man and he came up behind us yelling ‘Jew, Jew, Jew,’” she said. “All of the sudden he was in front of us and he did he ‘Heil Hitler’ salute,” she said.

She said the man proceeded to spit on them and smash a glass bottle at their feet.

“His hatred was so deep that he needed to act on it,” said Uram.

She hopes others will begin to speak out against antisemitism and make more people aware that it is on the rise.

“If it starts with antisemitism, it can move on the be anti-anything else and I think that’s where we can come together as a community because it can spread,” she said.

For more about the fight against antisemitism go to the Campaign for Jewish Needs, visit