Hope in yellow

The Esther Raab Holocaust Museum and Goodwin Education Center partnered with the Jewish Family & Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey to participate in the Daffodil Project. It’s mission is to create a worldwide living Holocaust memorial in memory of the children who perished. PHOTOS BY KATHY CHANG/THE SUN

Daffodils in bloom remind us of persistent antisemitism

The National Daffodil Project is not just a sign of spring.

Around the nation, about 800,000 daffodil bulbs in more than 400 communities have resulted in blankets of yellow. They commemorate the 1.5 million children who died in the Holocaust while wearing the yellow stars that branded – and doomed – them.

Wendy Cohen Klier, a lead geriatric case manager for Holocaust survivors at the Jewish Family and Children’s Service (JFCS) of Southern New Jersey, localized the remembrance effort by overseeing the planting of 500 daffodil bulbs outside the Cherry Hill organization.

“Daffodils – just like survivors we serve – are resilient and return with a burst of color each spring, signifying hope, renewal and beauty,” Klier noted, according to reporting in The Sun.

Jews know of resilience: centuries of discrimination have seen to that. Yet just as resilient is virulent antisemitism in America.

Attacks on Jews rose 36% nationwide in 2022, with 3,697 instances of assault, harassment or vandalism tallied by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the highest number on record since the organization began tracking numbers in 1979.

An ADL report released last month found that antisemitic incidents spanned all 50 states and Washington, D.C., last year, increasing from 2021 in each of the major categories the organization tracks. Antisemitic harassment increased by 29%, vandalism by 51% and assaults by 26%.

New Jersey is among five states that lead the nation in total incidents: The others are New York, California, Florida and Texas, according to the ADL.

While deadly attacks are less common, two stand out: a Neo-Nazi and former Ku Klux Klan leader fatally shot a man and his teen grandson outside a Kansas Jewish center in 2014, according to the Associated Press. And a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Congregation synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.

Other instances of antisemitism posed warnings of violence. Last year, 91 bomb threats were called or emailed to Jewish institutions or schools in 25 states, the ADL reported. Anti-semitic incidents on 130 college campuses increased by 41% in 2022, with vandalism that included swastikas.

We aren’t just talking about white supremacist hate here. Casual antisemitism – such as tropes about Jewish bankers controlling the financial industry or Jews as greedy people – has persisted even among those of us who condemn bigotry or other discrimination in its bolder forms.

There are efforts to turn the tide. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft launched a $25 million ad campaign late last month against antisemitism across the country, The Boston Globe reported.

But what can those of us who aren’t millionaires do? According to CNN, here are some ideas:

● Seek out the ADL’s online educational programs and resources,
including anti-bias training.

● Advocate for Holocaust education in your child’s school.

● Speak out against hate speech you hear – including comments comparing COVID mask mandates and other rules of law we don’t like with the Holocaust – and report it on social media.

● Be involved and aware of what is happening in your community.

● Report antisemitic incidents immediately. The ADL has an online form where you can report any incidents of “antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate.”

And if nothing else, take in Cherry Hill’s daffodils – a patch of hope that we can do better.

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