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Thursday, January 20, 2022
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As antisemitism rises on college campuses, online and in communities across the state and country, members of the Jewish community have grown increasingly frustrated in attempting to staunch the alarming trend.

However, instead of sitting at a computer engaging those posting anti-Jewish views or Israel hatred, the Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey is sponsoring a seven-part virtual symposium in conjunction with other organizations to provide tools and strategies to diffuse the lies and animosity and build alliances.

“The rise of antisemitism is continuing,” said Federation Director of Community Relations and Israel Engagement Dan Rozett. “It is not slowing down. We at Federation have been on the front lines combating this for years.”

The training series will kick off November 17 with a session featuring representatives from the ADL (Anti-Defamation League); CAMERA (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting); Jewish Federations of New Jersey; StandWithUs, a nonprofit international pro-Israel education organization; and OpenDor Media, a leading creator of Jewish film content, podcasts, YouTube videos, articles and educational resources.

The session will be moderated by Liran Kapoano, who organized the series with Rozett. Kapoano, a Federation board member and co-chair of its Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), said many people have taken their frustration to social media, an action he described as “screaming into the void.”

“No one on the internet can hear you,” he said. “The internet isn’t real.”

Instead of being “a keyboard commando,” Kapoano noted that Federation has developed relationships with law enforcement, government agencies and politicians on the national, state and local level and is seeking to unify the community to continue this advocacy. “These are people and agencies that can actually do something,” said the East Brunswick resident.

Rozett noted that advocacy has yielded such results as the federal Never Again Education Act signed into law last year, providing resources and training in Holocaust education for teachers as well as millions of dollars allocated for security at Jewish institutions.

Kapoano said that locally most of the problem seems to be centered on college campuses, particularly Rutgers University, where he was himself was once a pro-Israel student leader, although the campus has been quiet lately.

“We have an enormous amount of power,” he explained, noting that he and others have been to Washington and Trenton to meet with representatives to discuss and advocate for issues of importance to the Jewish community.

“Actions happened because concerned citizens got organized,” said Kapoano, adding that “politicians work for us. We have the ability to influence police forces to protect us. We have the power to influence officials not to cave in to anti-Israel forces.”

Likewise, he said that building relationships with imams, priests and ministers who can bring attention to problems within their congregations can help diffuse issues before they hit a flashpoint.

“One person has a hard time expressing themselves to a representative, but a group of people who represent an even larger group of people have a much better chance,” said Kapoano. “We can’t just go out knocking on doors without educating ourselves and having a command and grasp of the issues.”

The series seeks to provide insight from successes of various organizations and will continue through June 15, ending with a wrap-up of what participants have learned. Other sessions are: December 15, community engagement opportunities, led by Federation; January 19, how to advocate for different issues and the unique methodologies used for each, led by Jewish Federations of New Jersey; February 23, how to help teens talk about Israel and antisemitism in school, StandWithUS; March 30, building and maintaining interreligious relations; April 27, addressing online hate and overview of the 2021 audit of antisemitism, ADL.

Rozett said the hope is that a dedicated group of community volunteers will coalesce to interact with young people by speaking their language, build relationships with interreligious leaders, engage elected officials and be able to enlist friends, family and neighbors.

“This will be a huge thing for the community,” he said. “This will bring something very valuable to the community, and the JCRC is dedicated to coordinating this because only by showing unity and strength will we win this battle. Through unity we draw on each other’s strengths. Fighting with the trolls on Facebook, who are there only to incite, doesn’t do anything.”

For registration go to www.jewishheartnj.org/learnadvocacy  or call Rozett at (732) 588-1836.

By Debra Rubin

 

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