Jewish groups launch campaign to put spotlight on hate speech this Hanukkah season
Monday was the first full day of Hanukkah, and a Jewish group is using the occasion to launch a statewide effort to fight hate.
Security is always tight at the Jewish Community Center in Woodbridge and the Anti-Defamation League says this year, it is seeing an upswing in hate speech.
Shine A Light is a new campaign to highlight antisemitism. The ADL says many people may not even know they're saying something offensive or recognize hate speech when they hear it.
"Antisemitism is manifesting in the U.S. and around the world to a degree we have not witnessed since World War II," said David Warren, president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford.
Shine A Light includes a website to Translate Hate with commonly used phrases. The ADL says social media has made hate speech much more common and accepted.
"Social media, 'Zoom bombing,' has been very prevalent, and it has not decreased," said Interim Director of ADL Leah Kagan.
Critics say the problem starts in the classroom.
"We are seeing a large uptick over the last few years of incidents taking place online, so that is a trend that we're monitoring closely," said Kagan.
A 2018 law requires Connecticut schools to teach about the Holocaust and other genocides, but it doesn't define the scope or content of those lessons.
"One thing that we are realizing is that the state Department of Education does need more support," said state Rep. Mary Welander.
The Jewish Federation of Connecticut found 87% of teachers already include the Holocaust, but many said they don't have enough guidance, and many struggle with the graphic subject matter.
"Some teachers are still intimidated by the subject and need some support on that," said Michael Bloom, the executive director of the Jewish Federation Association.
During the Jewish Festival of Lights, this group hopes to shine a light on a subject still shrouded in darkness.