SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (NEXSTAR) – Illinois leaders are addressing a recent rise of hate after a new flare-up of antisemitism.
In a press conference on Wednesday led by Senator Laura Fine (D-Glenview), lawmakers condemned recent flyers distributed in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. The flyers compare Illinois’ Jewish politicians to leaders of the Soviet Union.
“I am saddened that this hate would be delivered to my doorstep and angry that this is taking place in my backyard.” Fine, who is Jewish, said. “We must speak up when we see this deplorable behavior. Silence does nothing to stop the hate.”
The legislators also announced they are working to create a task force to fight against antisemitism in the state. Governor J.B. Pritzker dedicated $20 million for religious organizations to beef up security against terrorism and hate in his budget proposal last month.
“Those who deploy antisemitic propaganda in an attempt to divide neighbor against neighbor will find themselves going up against the strongest resource in the world: Illinoisans’ capacity to be courageous and kind,” Pritzker, who is also Jewish, said in a statement.
The Anti-Defamation League reported antisemitic incidents increased in the Midwest by 84% between 2016 and 2020.
The northwest suburbs are not the only place with increases in bigotry against Jewish people. Antisemitic flyers were left across the University of Illinois’s campus last month, which prompted U of I Chancellor Robert Jones to send a mass email criticizing the flyers.
“Urbana-Champaign is for all students, “Jones said. “They have a right to have a university experience that is void of any kind of targeting to them because of their race, their ethnicity, or their religion.”
According to Hillel, a Jewish cultural center by campus, approximately 3,000 U of I students are Jewish.
Antisemitism is a problem at more universities than just UIUC, says Chancellor Jones.
“What you see playing out in Urbana-Champaign, in Chicago, is kind of a microcosm of what’s going on across this nation of ours in this climate of intolerance where it just seems to be growing exponentially,” Jones said.
The Anti-Defamation League notes college campuses are hotbeds for antisemitism because hatemongers are skilled in using academic language to express bigoted ideas to intellectually curious students.
Jones said university staff is working with Hillel, the Council on Jewish and Campus Life and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international organization fighting antisemitism, to make campus safer for its Jewish students.
Alison Pure-Slovin, the Midwest regional director for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says ignorance, as well as bigoted messages spread across social media, are some of the main reasons for antisemitism.
“When it comes to antisemitism, people don’t know what a Jew is, who a Jew is,” Pure-Slovin said. “In addition to that, nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘I hate Jews today.’ It’s learned behavior.”
According to Pure-Slovin, the best weapon to fight antisemitism is education and breaking down narratives.
“It’s very important that we educate students, children, and young people against the ramifications of hate,” Pure-Slovin said. “Hate and propaganda has no place in this world.”
If you witness antisemitism, you should report it to your local police department, as well as the Illinois Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau. Additionally, the University of Illinois has a website to anonymously report hate crimes.