NCJW/Essex Statements on Antisemitism

It is critical that NCJW/Essex speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate as we know that fighting one form of hate is linked to fighting all forms.

Antisemitism:  There is No Vaccine for Hate. November 2022

NCJW/Essex shared this message with its members and friends following the FBI warning of broad threats to synagogues in New Jersey issued on November 3, 2022.

A virus is spreading in all corners of the world, throughout the United States and in our local New Jersey communities. It’s one that even our greatest scientific advancements have been unable to cure. 
 
Antisemitism is on the rise, exemplified by the FBI warning of a “credible threat” to New Jersey synagogues last week. NCJW/Essex, like many synagogues and other Jewish institutions, closed its doors on Friday out of an abundance of caution. 
 
For as long as there have been Jews, there has been the disease of antisemitism. Yet the most recent wave of antisemitic words and activities is terrifying both in its scope and tendency to lead to violence. With targets ranging from synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif. to a kosher market in nearby Jersey City, many of us have understandably been on edge. Celebrities have felt empowered to use their pulpits to target Jews. And it was only a few weeks ago that our own community addressed swastikas drawn into a desk at a local middle school. 
 
Our vigilance should not be mistaken for acceptance. NCJW/Essex is a diverse group of volunteers and advocates. Our Jewish values bring us together and are at the very core of our work.
 
We share your heartbreak and anger.
 
We held our collective breath as the FBI worked to identify the man responsible for these specific online threats. Though the suspect was taken into custody, we know we cannot exhale.
 
There is no vaccine for hate. 
 
NCJW/Essex will reopen on Monday, and we will continue to take action against hatred in our community. Join us in speaking out and standing up against antisemitism. 
 
In partnership and with appreciation,
NCJW/Essex’s Advocacy Team

Calls to Action: Five Things You Can Do Now

1 – Vote for leaders who will fight hate. Make sure you and everyone you know casts a ballot by Tuesday, November 8. Find everything you need to vote in NJ here. 
 
2 – Tell your Senators to pass the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (S964/HR350) to address the growing threat of white supremacist groups and other violent domestic extremists here.
 
3 – Urge the House of Representatives to introduce and support the bipartisan Pray Safe Act (S2123) that establishes a federal clearinghouse through which faith-based organizations and houses of worship can access safety resources here.
4 – Stand against antisemitic rhetoric and encourage friends, family and neighbors to, as well, by calling out incidents that occur in public or online. You can report them here.
 
5 – Recommit to NCJW/Essex and our shared Jewish values. Stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we rally against the anti-abortion movement, human trafficking, voter suppression, and any number of interconnected forces that work to harm women, children and families. Email Director of Advocacy Stephanie Abrahams for more information on how to get involved. And stop by the office to support your fellow volunteers and employees who are working toward the same goals!  

Stand Up. Stand Together. July 2022

Some stories are difficult to retell or rehear. We share them to remember how we felt and to inspire us to translate our concerns into action. As Albert Einstein said, “In the middle of every difficulty lies an opportunity.” We encourage you to read the story below and find your opportunity to act. 

Soon after the murders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Livingston Police visited NCJW/Essex to teach the employees what to do in the event an active shooter entered the building.  

I worked from a cubicle at that time, so I was instructed to stand in Patty’s office during the lockdown drill. We pulled a chair in front of her door and then stood quietly next to the shelves stocked with cans of black beans and boxes of macaroni. A few minutes later, Caitlin banged on the door, begging to be let in. When I moved to reach the doorknob, Patty swiped my hand away. We are not to let Caitlin in under any circumstances, she mouthed silently. The gunman could be right behind her.  

Thanks to Patty, we passed the test. But when the drill was over and we met back in the conference room, a number of employees were shaken. Don’t worry, the police officer told us. If a gunman is motivated by anti-Semitism, he will most likely target the Jewish school down the street. This was supposed to make us feel better.  

Perhaps there is a metaphor here about the impending danger to our way of life, our democracy. Or a note that when there is a threat to one group, there is usually also a threat to the Jews. But if you, like me, were horrified by our experience, if it keeps you up at night, then thank you. Because horrified people take action. Laurie Kahn, our new VP of Advocacy (pictured above), and I are asking you to join us as we stand firmly against the dangers and the threats that are very real, not metaphors. This is not a drill.  

Our core values are under attack. In the coming days, weeks and months we will provide ways for getting out the vote, and taking action on reproductive rights and gun violence prevention, starting with those below. And know what a difference your actions have already made — read on to celebrate our legislative victories in Trenton! 

-Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy 

Advocacy Alert – January 2022

In the spring of 2020 we planted a family vegetable garden in our backyard. My children took great pride in showing visitors the budding eggplants and tomatoes. When a section of the garden became overgrown because one type of plant’s roots overtook the others, they helped us pare it back and make the garden healthy again. This is the lesson I want them to take beyond this pandemic and through their lives – that our roots are intertwined, that we are all responsible for each other and only when we work toward the common good can we all bloom. 

Now, nearly two years later, we are in n95 masks, standing six feet apart, worried about school closures and compromised parents, staring at empty shelves in Trader Joe’s. That garden? It’s frozen under a layer of snow.  

But its roots are still there.  

As the horrific events that transpired at Congregation Beth Israel this weekend demonstrated, antisemitism does not rest. And neither does the anti-abortion movement, human trafficking, voter suppression, or any number of evils that work to harm women, children and families. We, like you, want to advocate in person. The slow pace of achieving meaningful policy change seems even longer during Covid. But this latest surge will pass; the ground will thaw and we will adapt again. In the meantime, please know how important your advocacy work is. The successes outlined below would not have been possible without you. Our roots – the bonds that make us responsible for each other and propel us toward the common good – are still there no matter how we gather.  

Thank you for the work you have done. Andrea and I look forward to continuing our advocacy efforts with you. 

-Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy

Antisemitism Calls on Us to Act NOW! April 2019

We at NCJW/Essex are outraged and heartbroken that we marked the six-month anniversary of the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 people lost their lives, with yet another shooting — this time at Chabad of Poway, California.

While it should be that horrific acts of hatred like these are unimaginable, unfortunately we can imagine them all too well. Hate crimes have surged at an alarming rate. Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. alone rose 60% in 2017. Those who lost their lives were simply worshipping, celebrating mitzvahs, standing with family.

As we have seen in Pittsburgh, Sri Lanka and New Zealand, hatred and access to guns leads to tragedy.

We cannot stand idly by and merely mourn. Our anger leads us to act now.

Please urge Congress to support the immediate passage of the Domestic Terrorism Prevention Act (S. 2148/H.R.4918) to address the growing threat of white supremacist groups and other violent domestic extremists. And ask Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to schedule a vote on the Enhanced Background Checks Act (S.42), already passed by the House.

Let us make the unimaginable truly unimaginable once again.

Senator Cory Booker: www.booker.senate.gov
Senator Robert Menendez: www.menendez.senate.gov
Senator Mitch McConnell: www.mcconnell.senate.gov
Congressional Representatives: www.house.gov

-Stephanie Abrahams, Director of Advocacy