Chicago-area Jews speak out against antisemitism amid recent violence between Israel, Palestine

'Solidarity walk' also held in Orland Park, Naperville Sunday to support Palestinians

Michelle Gallardo Image
Monday, May 24, 2021
Chicago-area Jews speak out against antisemitism
Israeli and American flags flew side by side in Skokie today as hundreds of Chicago-area Jews came together to speak out against what they see as a new wave of antisemitism across

SKOKIE, Ill. (WLS) -- Israeli and American flags flew side by side in Skokie Sunday as hundreds of Chicago-area Jews came together to speak out against what they see as a new wave of antisemitism across the United States.

They said the recent rise in attacks has been sparked by the latest round of violence between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza.

RELATED: Palestinians see victory in Gaza truce as Israel vows 'new level of force' to further attacks

"This is not a protest. This gathering today is a cry of pain," said Rabbi Zvi Engel with Congregation Or Torah.

It was just last week when a pair of Palestinian supporters were captured on surveillance video vandalizing Skokie's Persian Hebrew congregation. The hate crime, as it is being investigated by Skokie Police, is not an outlier.

The Anti-Defamation League said it has received close to 200 reports of possible antisemitic acts in the week after the conflict began, which is a nearly 50% increase from the week before.

A Twitter analysis done by the group from May 7-14 also showed more than 17,000 tweets that used variations of the phrase, "Hitler was right."

RELATED: Mideast violence bears hallmarks of 2014 Gaza war; Hamas says high-ranking militant killed

"I survived because a Christian family in Poland saved my life," said Ida Kersz, an 82-year-old child Holocaust survivor. "They took me out of the ghetto. They baptized me and pretended I am their child."

It is stories like hers, and the fear those shared memories still bring, that brought together Jews of all political and philosophical stripes.

"In this country, we have a right to practice our religion. We have a right to walk around with a Kippah without the fear, like has happened in NY, like has happened in LA," said Shaanan Gelman with Kehilat Chovevei Tzion.

"American Jews are not always in lockstep with what Israel does," added Brent Brotine. "We admit that. They admit that. But we are in lockstep and should be with Israel the country."

EXPLAINER: Why os Gaza always mired in conflict?

"It's not about the Palestinians versus the Jewish people. Israel is a homeland to Abrahamic cultures and religions. We just want to live in peace at the end of the day," said Michelle Mantel.

In the three days since the cease-fire went into effect, pro-Palestinian rallies have continued throughout the area as well. The expected disruption to this event, however, never came -- much to the relief of those in attendance.

Nearly a dozen Chicago-area organizations gathered Sunday morning in Orland Park for a "solidarity walk" to support Palestinian people.

RELATED: Palestine rally in Chicago draws hundreds to support independence, celebrate Israel ceasefire

The group marched to raise awareness of what they said is a "humanitarian crisis" of water, food, and electricity in Palestine.

Another rally for Palestine also took place at Rotary Hill in Naperville Sunday.

Organizers said the protest was to show solidarity for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Palestinians.

After listening to speakers, the group marched through downtown Naperville.

The United Nations reported more than 50,000 Palestinians have been displaced by recent Israeli airstrikes prior to the ceasefire.