In a powerful statement issued by an array of Holocaust institutions, scholars and educators from around the world, an alarm is being sounded on the rise of groups that promote intolerance and promote hate speech.
Oregon Jewish Museum and Center for Holocaust Education is among 90 institutions who are calling on lawmakers to condemn white nationalist groups and ask citizens to be vigilant. Among the 71 individuals who have signed the statement are two Portlanders – Sonia Marie Leikam, Holocaust educator and anti-genocide activist; and Professor Steven Wasserstrom, Department of Judaic Studies at Reed College.
In a recent email reflecting on rising tensions in America, OJMCHE Director Judith Margles said, “The current political climate may frighten and even numb us. But at OJMCHE we take it as an unfortunate affirmation of the work that we do and why that work matters now more than ever.
“We are first and foremost an institution of education. We teach how to recognize the roots of hate, how to instill values of inclusion and respect, and how to participate in an inclusive, vibrant democracy built on understanding and reconciling differences.”
Following is the statement signed by the groups and individuals nationwide:
Recent months have seen a surge in unabashed racism and hate speech – including blatant antisemitism and attacks on Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, women, the LGBTQ community, as well as other targeted groups. Journalists have been threatened. Places of worship, schools and playgrounds have been defaced with Nazi symbols intended to intimidate and arouse fear. White supremacist groups have become self-congratulatory and emboldened.
As Holocaust scholars, educators and institutions, we are alarmed by these trends. History teaches us that intolerance, unchecked, leads to persecution and violence. We denounce racism and the politics of fear that fuels it. We stand in solidarity with all vulnerable groups. We take Elie Wiesel’s words to heart: “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.”
Therefore, we call upon all elected officials as well as all civic and religious leaders to forcefully and explicitly condemn the rise in hate speech and any attacks on our democratic principles. We call upon all media and social media platforms to refuse to provide a stage for hate groups and thus normalize their agenda. And we call upon all people of good conscience to be vigilant, to not be afraid, and to speak out.
This statement is co-authored by members of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, a network dedicated to the advancement of Holocaust education, remembrance and research, and is affirmed by the signatory institutions and individuals.