Rudin-Luria Shares Federation’s Efforts to Combat Antisemitism, Hatred

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By Becky Raspe

Article reprinted with permission from Cleveland Jewish News 

Erika Rudin-Luria, president of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, discussed “Hatred: an ever-present pandemic” and how the Federation works to combat antisemitism and hate locally, nationally and internationally, as part of the Cleveland Leadership Center’s “The Way Forward Leader Lunch Breaks” on Aug. 17 via Zoom.

According to the Cleveland Leadership Center’s website, The Way Forward Leader Lunch Breaks is a series of virtual discussions and workshops on topics to help people move forward in our new and uncertain world.

Rudin-Luria, who was a member of Leadership Cleveland’s class of 2020, delved into how antisemitism and anti-Jewish hatred have grown in recent years. And up until this uptick, she said she didn’t speak much about it.

“Antisemitism was something I never spoke about,” Rudin-Luria said. “I was one of those people who believed that while antisemitism existed, it was driven underground and it was not going to emerge in a pervasive way. I was totally wrong, which is incredibly disappointing. It is the state of the world today.”

Rudin-Luria said antisemitism typically manifests publicly in three ways – assaults/violence, harassment and vandalism, taking place both in-person and online. Saying it is the world’s “oldest conspiracy theory,” she listed some of the most well known antisemitic incidents nationally, including the Charlottesville, Va. marchers’ “Jews Will Not Replace Us” chant, referencing a white supremacist conspiracy theory that Jews control the world and are working to extinguish the white race with non-whites who are controlled by Jews.

Rudin-Luria added that while many antisemitic theories categorize Jews as all-powerful, many also insist Jews are the lowest of the low.

“Antisemitism punches up and punches down,” she said. “While Jews in this whole framework are all-powerful, they are also rodents. That was actually used by Nazis as an excuse for the extermination and genocide of Jews during the Holocaust.”

Locally, Rudin-Luria recalled the recent antisemitic events in Northeast Ohio, including acts of graffiti, telephone harassment and assaults like bottles and eggs being thrown at Jews of all ages. According to the FBI, Jews are the No. 1 target of faith-based hate crimes in the United States. Data released in April by the Anti-Defamation League showed that there was a 92% increase in antisemitic events in the last five years in Ohio, she said.

“That is the reality that our community is living in right now,” Rudin-Luria said. “Antisemitism is the canary in a coal mine. Oftentimes, it never ends there. So, we see it as our job to fight against it in all realms. We do this through building relationships, education, aid and fighting ignorance in a multitude of ways. And when all else fails, because of violence, we have a very large security program in the Jewish community and very deep relationships with law enforcement, who are incredible partners to us.”

Those relationships with law enforcement and other Jewish organizations throughout Cleveland are essential to the Federation’s work, Rudin-Luria said.

“When you work with people on something you both care about, you’re able to build relationships and get to know each other in a way that is deeper and not superficial,” she said. “All of us need to be educated in what different words mean to different people. We try to do that with a very open mind with local politicians, media or whatever we need to do.”

But the truth, Rudin-Luria said, is that we all need to fight antisemitism in our circles. Though sometimes that can be hard, she said fostering community is one of the Federation’s hopes for a better future.

“Sometimes people that choose to be an ally don’t know what to do about it,” she said. “That’s something we’re working on right now, helping people find their voice again....People bring me hope. The future looks exceptionally bright, and that alone gives me hope.”

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