HomeCherry Hill NewsJewish organizations shine ‘lights’ on antisemitism

Jewish organizations shine ‘lights’ on antisemitism

Cherry Hill effort touches on local and world hate incidents


The Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey joined the national Shine the Light effort on Dec. 20 by keeping its building lights on to celebrate Hanukkah and raise awareness of antisemitism. (Special to The Sun/The Sun)

For the second consecutive year, the Jewish Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council of southern New Jersey participated in the Shine a Light campaign by leaving building lights on at the Katz Jewish Community Center on the night of Dec. 20.

The move by both Cherry Hill organizations was part of the national effort to raise awareness of antisemitism and celebrate Hanukkah that started last year and saw support from about 60 North American Jewish and non-Jewish organizations and corporations, according to the St. Louis Jewish Light newspaper

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“(Participating in Shine a Light) is an act of solidarity – spearheaded in partnership with our social advocacy agency, JCRC of Southern New Jersey – with our Jewish community to shine a light on the fact that antisemitism is rising locally and globally and to dispel the darkness it brings with it,” said Amanda Michelson, marketing and communications director for the Jewish Federation. 

More than a dozen synagogues and day schools in Gloucester, Camden and Burlington counties participated this year, including synagogues Kol Ami and Temple Beth Sholom in Cherry Hill and Congregation B’nai Tikvah Beth Israel in Washington Township.

“We decided to do the lights program on Dec. 20 because the JCC is hosting its great Hanukkah event called The Great Hanukkah Happening, explained Stephanie Dworkin, chief marketing officer for the federation. 

 “ … When we were talking about this idea, it seemed like a natural fit to leave the lights on, since we’re making a big deal about lighting the third light.”

In addition to leaving the lights on, the JCRC has partnered with area schools for Hanukkah parties with their Jewish student unions and diversity clubs to address antisemitism.

“Antisemitism manifests itself in many ways, whether it be a swastika on a school desk or hate slurs made on the playground or comments made on social media,” said Sabrina Spector, associate director of JCRC. “Those are all modern-day forms of antisemitism.”

Although the South Jersey community has not been without incident, Spector said she’s proud of how they have been handled.

“The majority of our incidents are ones that we can really address, and community members step up very quickly to really squash any growth of hate,” she explained. “ … Human Relations councils throughout the counties are very much aware, and are doing a lot of programs in their own communities to ensure that everyone feels welcome and that there’s diversity.”

Throughout the year, 

The JCRC hosts a number of yearly events to bring people together and educate them on the fight against antisemitism, including a recent community conversation on hate at Camden County College in Blackwood. The next community conversation will be held in February on the topic of antisemitism on college campuses.

The JCRC’s Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center brings Holocaust survivors to classrooms to share their stories and offers theater performances that relate to the horrors of the Jewish genocide. Teachers can also access its educational resources for their materials and curriculums. 

So many of the things that happen around hate issues are because of ignorance, and the ability to be able to sit down and have dialogues can change everything,” Spector noted. “When we find our common ground and find out we have a lot more to share than disagree on, we can really move forward.”

To stay up to date with the JCRC, visit https://www.jcrcsnj.org/

To learn more about the Shine a Light movement, visit https://shinealighton.com/.

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