‘It’s becoming an increasing concern’: Community discussion to be held on anti-Semitism

Published: Jun. 26, 2021 at 6:13 PM EDT
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HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WWBT) - Over the last month and a half, there has been an increase in hate speech against the Jewish community in the Metro-Richmond area, according to the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.

Experts believe this could stem from the ongoing conflict overseas between Israel and Palestine. While a recent ceasefire between the two countries went into effect at the end of May, a group of faith, community and government leaders will discuss anti-Semitism at an event this weekend - seeking a solution to the rise in violence here at home.

“Speaking with our Muslim partners, one of the things we identified was when there are tensions that escalate in the Middle East, it comes back home and impacts our communities,” said David Cohen, director of Jewish Community Relations with the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond.

However, Cohen said most recently, some in the Jewish community in the Richmond area have felt targeted.

“We had people simply walking to worship, walking to synagogue, being shouted at from cars passing by in the street,” he said.

It is a concern Cohen has heard multiple times over the last few weeks. However, this is not new for the Jewish community.

“Hate has been around for a while,” Cohen said. “For the last few years it’s become an increasing concern for all of our communities.”

According to The Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, the group started seeing a rise in anti-Semitism following the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville in 2017.

According to Virginia State Police, hate crime statistics show 22 reported cases against Jewish people in 2017. That number fluctuated over the years, with 15 cases reported in 2020.


“We have to remember that some people don’t feel comfortable reporting when something happens,” Cohen said.

But hate is an issue most people, regardless of beliefs, say should not exist in a community. It is why a discussion on anti-Semitism is taking place this weekend.

“[It’s] with community leaders, faith leaders and with government officials just so we can express, in a sense, some solidarity on this and find a way forward,” Cohen said.

Among those attending — including congressmen and women, and state lawmakers — many have diverse backgrounds and religious beliefs.

The diversity is something Cohen believes will help generate a rounded conversation, highlighting different community backgrounds dealing with the same issue.

“All anyone wants to do in any community is feel included, feel welcomed, feel like they’re part of the wider communal conversation,” Cohen said.

Confirmed guests include:

  • U.S. Senator Tim Kaine (D-Va.)
  • U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger (D-Va. 7th)
  • U.S. Representative Bob Good (R-Va. 5th)
  • Senator Siobhan Dunnavant (R-Henrico)
  • Senator Ghazala Hashmi (D-Richmond)
  • Delegate Betsy Carr (D-Richmond)
  • Delegate Lashrecse Aird (D-Petersburg)
  • Delegate Schuyler VanValkenburg (D-Richmond)
  • Delegate John McGuire (R-Glen Allen)
  • Rabbi Hal Schevitz, Richmond Council of Congregational Rabbis
  • Bishop Darryl Husband Sr., Mt. Olivet Church
  • Reverend Daniel Glaze, River Road Church
  • Jonathan Zur, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities (VCIC)

While the group understands a solution may not come overnight, they hope the conversation and dialogue will at least help in moving towards a long-lasting solution.

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