Fairfield County rallies to stop antisemitism Lilly Weisz '23 Assistant Creative Director

Fairfield County gathered at Westport's Jesup Green on June 2 for an event titled "Standing Together Against Antisemitism," uniting against the rise in antisemitism during the recent flare in the Israel/Palestine conflict. The event was organized by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County and various local congregations of different religions. Non-Jews and Jews alike of all ages attended in solidarity against hatred and violence.

"Today we've seen acts of antisemitism strikingly close to us in New York City. Let there be no doubt, Antisemitism has no place in our community. We respect our Jewish neighbors and visitors. Westport is an inclusive community that embraces diversity and has always celebrated cultures and different religious beliefs. We continue to respect everyone regardless of their race, creed or ethnic origin. I encourage all in our community to reaffirm these values. During this challenging period, I stand with our friends and neighbors who feel threatened by these terrible activities. Make no mistake, Westport is focused on protecting all residents and visitors." -Jim Marpe, Westport First Selectman
Photo by Lilly Weisz '23
Photo by Lilly Weisz '23
Photo by Lilly Weisz '23
"Silence is acceptance. Anytime we hear someone speak words of hate, and no one is exempt from having ideas like this, we've got to say something. We have to respond quickly to the need of people who are targeted. We have to stand up. You have to be there in person, fighting hate can't be confined to showing up to a rally. We have to be there. We have to make our stand broadly visible. Westport is a community of lawn signs. We're really great about supporting our candidates. Can we be as supportive about [standing against] hate? Finally, we can't back out, we cannot retreat. Antisemitism these days is a little different. It used to be focused from white nationalists and the very far right. We knew who the haters were. Today, we're seeing people who look just like us with a deep antisemitic attitude and nothing drives that home deeper than the surge during the recent hostilities in the Middle East. Think about it, what does a Jew in Fairfield County, Connecticut have to do with any action in the Middle East? In fact, this is a very liberal community. If we speak to the majority of Jews here, chances are, they will agree with criticism of governments on both sides of the conflict. This is not a political issue." -Rabbi Greg Wall of Beit Chaverim in Westport, Connecticut
Westport First Selectman Jim Marpe delivered the first statement at the event. The crowd filled the Green, and some individuals who had only been in the location for an evening downtown joined the rally. Because of the lifting of the outdoor mask mandate in Connecticut, most in attendance did not wear masks and felt free to hug friends whom they had not seen for some time. Photos by Lilly Weisz '23
"The strongest resource we can provide is that strength of unity. I've seen firsthand through the ADL, the support and strength that all generations are so eager to provide, and that fuels my conviction in combating antisemitism. With pride for the community I'm defending, my sense of why I choose to stand up is strengthened. In programs there's a resounding message that people don't know what to do. We [the ADL] do present resources, but there's a strength that we cannot give you and that is required from within you. And it is the strength to stand up, the strength to realize that there's no such thing as a Jewish joke, as they are so often called, because anything that degrades, devalues and delegitimizes someone's value or values is not a joke." - Anti-Defamation League Teen Trainer, Samantha Renzulli
"The people who do these terrible things, they're trying to drive a wedge between us, within our [Jewish] community, and trying to drive a wedge between us and the greater community. And what I want to say to those people, whether you're out here or whether you're watching online, we don't get together like this every week. You try to drive us apart: you've made us sad, and you've made us stronger We don't come together every week, and you did this, you bring us together when you try to wedge us apart." -CEO of the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County, David Weisberg
"We all have been rattled with the recent increase in hate crimes, but especially the recent uptick in the acts of violence against our Jewish communities. There is no place for such behavior in a civil society, which provides a path for people to cohabitate in peace, regardless of their color, race or religion. Sikh history is full of examples, where our gurus and our leaders have stood up against injustice and discrimination. So today, representing my place of worship, I stand here in solidarity to our brothers and sisters of the Jewish community." -Kanwar Singh of the Norwalk Sikh Temple or Norwalk Gurudwara Sahib
"When planning this rally to stand against antisemitism in particular, there were those who felt that we should have been gathering in private, not in such a public place like this. They were afraid of what might happen. When Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walked arm in arm in Selma, Alabama, they too may have been afraid, but they marched forward, nonetheless. And if Martin Luther King Jr were with us today, I believe that he would repeat the words that are attributed to him: 'You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely "anti-Zionist." And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews— this is God's own truth. Antisemitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind. In this, we are in full agreement. So know also this: anti-Zionist is inherently antisemitic and ever will be so.' So, my friends, as we gather here this evening in Westport, Connecticut, we ought not be afraid. Our people have spent thousands of years being afraid, and we are done being afraid." -Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn of The Conservative Synagogue in Westport, Connecticut
Photo by Lilly Weisz '23
"I did not imagine that as a mother, I would have to answer my own child asking the question, 'Why do people hate us?' And I never imagined that despite the subsequent decades of education on Jewish history and work in the community, that I would be so ill-equipped to answer that question. I suppose that every generation before us has asked this question as well, but now we are in a new age of antisemitism; like a virus it mutates and grows to fit a changing society, political climate and culture. And we are right now at a turning point in the course of history that must awaken us out of our complacency." - Rabbi Shirah Sklar of Temple Shalom in Norwalk, Connecticut
Image provided by the Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County
"Understanding antisemitism should impel us to stand taller and prouder. Wear our yarmulkes, stars of David and chai necklaces more visibly, display mezuzahs at our doorposts and celebrate the beauty and values that Judaism represents. Now, make no mistake, we absolutely must do everything in our power, in the realm of practicality, to stamp out antisemitism. We must take all necessary measures to protect and defend ourselves from the senseless hatred, but we must never run and hide from who we are. We are not history's victims. Instead, we must stand proudly and quadruple our efforts to stand strong with the ideals that have illuminated the world for over 3000 years. Am Yisrael Chai." -Rabbi Shlame Landa of Chabad of Fairfield, Connecicut
Photo by Lilly Weisz '23