Federation Freeway Billboards Send Message About Hostages, Antisemitism

Tags: Federation, Advocacy, Israel

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The Jewish Federation of Cleveland's billboard raising awareness of the hostages still held in Gaza, seen from Interstate 480 West. Submitted photo.


Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News

As Clevelanders and visitors drive along freeways, they may notice billboards carrying messages from the Jewish community, such as the release of hostages held in Gaza and awareness of the rise in antisemitism.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland is behind two such billboards on Interstate 90 east near the West 117th Street exit and Interstate 480 west near the Broadway Avenue exit that went up in early February and will rotate to different locations for the duration of three months.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland's "blue square" billboard seen from Interstate 90 east but will rotate to other locations over three months. Submitted photo

“We cannot, as a Jewish community, stay silent in the face of growing hate,” Dan Zelman, Federation board chair, told the Cleveland Jewish News on March 6. “We also can’t let the hostages be forgotten as time goes on. And we know that outside the Jewish community, we just can’t assume that people fully understand the magnitude of the hatred that’s targeting Jews because they’re not as sensitized to it or reading as much and listening to as much of the daily information we get as the Jewish community.”

The Federation began using billboards in its messaging last August as the Cleveland partner in the national “blue square” campaign launched by Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, to raise awareness of the historic levels of antisemitism. The Anti-Defamation League recorded an all-time high of antisemitic incidents in 2022, with 2023 expected to show even higher levels following the spike in incidents after the Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas attack in Israel, according to previous CJN reporting.

Three billboards rotated for three months among two fixed locations reaching those entering and leaving downtown Cleveland from the west side and one rotating to where space was available, according to the Federation.

The billboard on I-90 is a continuation of this campaign, sharing a blue square and the message “hate crimes against Jews are up 360% since terrorists attacked Israel on Oct. 7, 2023” and crediting the ADL. It also includes the URL BlueSquareCLE.org which redirects to jewishcleveland.org/antisemitism on the Federation’s website.

“Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the Jewish community has faced historic levels of hatred,” Zelman said. “Our fellow Clevelanders just need to understand what we’re facing here and around the country.”

Similar to the large ribbon display outside the Federation’s building in Beachwood, the second billboard features the pictures of the more than 100 hostages still held in Gaza, with the message #BringThemHomeNow. It includes the URL StandWithIsraelCLE.org, which redirects to jewishcleveland.org/israel-resources.

“We also want to keep the awareness level high and not forget that there is still 132 people, including children, babies, that are being held hostage by Hamas in Gaza,” he said. “And we want to keep the awareness up and get them home, help do what we can to help bring these people home.”

Learn More: Federation, Advocacy, Israel