Hate crimes and antisemitic incidents hit a record high in the United States in 2021, even right here in our beloved Ocean State.
In November, antisemitic flyers left in yards in Warwick, North Providence and Newport shattered the peace of our community, and hateful words spoken and tweeted by famous people with a national audience were painful and disturbing to Jews and non-Jews alike.
So when I heard from Jan Dane, owner of Stock Culinary Goods, in Providence, and president of the Hope Street Merchants Association, asking how to best include the Jewish community in their upcoming holiday celebrations, our conversation quickly turned to antisemitism.
I asked Dane if she had heard about what happened in Billings, Montana, in the mid-’90s. When faced with a series of hate crimes against Native Americans, Blacks and Jews, the community responded immediately.
During one incident, a brick was thrown through the bedroom window of a 6-year-old boy who had placed a menorah in his window for Hanukkah. In response, the local newspaper printed a full-page menorah for people to display in a window. The message was clear: The irrational hatred of a few cannot destroy the bonds of our community.
This simple way to stand together against hatred and bigotry inspired other communities to do the same.
Nearly 30 years later, we are asking our community to follow suit. Attached to this story is an outline of a menorah, ready to be filled in with crayons, or decorated however you like, and hung in a window so that people know you stand with the Jewish community against hatred and antisemitism.
Organizations such as the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, in Providence, and the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island, partner with our synagogues, other Jewish groups and schools to spread light in a world that has so much darkness. Together as a community, we must continue to find ways to invite and activate our neighbors and interfaith partners to stand up as well.
As you shop in our wonderful small businesses for gifts for the holiday season, you will find that many have copies of the menorah and a #GetLoudSpeakOut sticker.
Please decorate and hang your paper menorah to share the light of the season and help fight against all forms of hate and bigotry. You can download it here or by using the link under "Downloads" at the top left of this story.
RACHEL MERSKY WODA is the director of Youth and Family Engagement at Temple Beth-El, in Providence.