Rockford leaders move to combat antisemitism in the area

Local News

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) – The “Forest City” shows support for the local Jewish community.

Next Wednesday has been proclaimed an “Annual Day of Action to Combat Antisemitism in Rockford.”

Rabbi Binah Wing of Temple Beth-El, 1203 Comanche Dr, said that messages of hate ramped up in 2020, but she is hopeful that speaking out about her experiences could help to push back against prejudice in the stateline.

Mayor Tom McNamara signed a proclamation Tuesday night that names October 27 an annual day of action to combat antisemitism in Rockford.

“Rockford will do better, and everyone here should feel loved, they should feel they belong here, and they certainly feel welcome here in Rockford,” McNamara said. “We know this still runs rampant throughout our country.”

Wing has been the leader at Rockford’s Temple Beth-El for nearly two decades, and while she said that it has been a mostly positive experience, antisemitism still crops up from time to time.

“On more than one occasion, I’ve been afraid that I wouldn’t return home to my family after a worship experience,” Wing said.

Several acts of hate over the years has convinced temple leaders to increase security for major religious events, and they have also avoided adding signage to the front of the building.

“It has been discussed many, many times over the years, and each time, we decide against it, because it doesn’t feel safe calling attention to who we are,” Wing said.

Advocates said that these feelings are not uncommon. According to a survey done by the American Jewish Committee, more than 1 in 3 Jewish Americans experienced hate in one form or another in 2020.

“Here, now. Not in the 1940s or 50s, but in 2020. We’re going to have new data soon looking at 2021, and unfortunately, the feeling I get is that it’s only going to rise,” said Sarah van Loon of the American Jewish Committee.

“The only way I think sometimes to eliminate hatred is for people to know about it, so they can do better,” Wing said.

October 27 was chosen for a reason. It is the same day of a 2018 mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. 11 people were killed in that attack.

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