Celtics fans streaming out of TD Garden after this week’s playoff games will come face to face with a new glowing blue billboard facing the front doors of the famous arena. It’s message: “It’s time to stop Jewish hate.”
The billboard advertises a campaign launched Monday by an organization representing Greater Boston’s Jewish community.
Following an alarming rise in Massachusetts antisemitic incidents and a nationwide jump in anti-Jewish incidents in 2022, Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, or CJP, alongside Governor Maura Healey, Attorney General Andrea Campbell, Mayor Michelle Wu, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, and other community representatives, announced the “Face Jewish Hate” mobilization campaign, an extension of a nationwide advertising effort from Kraft’s nonprofit Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.
“Boston is known across the world for our intensity and how much we will stand up for each other and be unified in our community,” Wu said at a news conference outside the Garden Monday. “We need to send the right message when it comes to unity around many many issues that, in 2023, should not be dividing us, but continue to rear their heads up.”
The effort will focus on elevating stories of local Jewish hate to raise public awareness that everyday antisemitism exists. The Face Jewish Hate website serves as a hub for Jewish people to share stories about their experiences with hate, connect with Jewish communities, and find educational resources.
“I was blessed to grow up in what felt like a post-antisemitic America,” Marc Baker, president and chief executive of CJP, said at the launch. “If anyone hated me because I was Jewish, to be honest, I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it. Not so anymore.”
Last year in Massachusetts, the number of antisemitic incidents involving assault, harassment, and vandalism increased 41 percent from 2021, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League. The findings place the Commonwealth among the top six states in the nation for antisemitic activity. The jump in incidents surpassed the increasing rates in New England and across the country as a whole.
“Unfortunately, [in] this country that I love so much, we’re seeing disturbing actions that really, in my opinion, are reminiscent of the late 30s,” said Kraft, who invested $20 million to start the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism, which analyzes the spread of antisemitism on social media. “We’re seeing neo-Nazis raising swastikas, and demonstrators say, ‘down with the Jews.’ This the United States in 2023. There’s no room for that kind of hate.”
The launch featured guests who were targeted with hate because of their religion, including Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who was repeatedly stabbed in Brighton in 2021 outside a Jewish day school, and Dr. Jeremy Schiller, chair of Salem’s Board of Health, who received antisemitic messages after the board instituted a vaccine mandate in 2021.
“The power of this campaign is that it humanizes the problem,” Healey said. “It centers on real people, on our communities, including communities that have been directly harmed by antisemitism. These are our neighbors, our colleagues, our friends, parents and grandparents.”
Campbell, Healey, and Wu each emphasized their commitment to partner with and support CJP and Kraft’s work across the government to fight Jewish hate in Massachusetts.
“While our Jewish communities have demonstrated tremendous courage, unity, and resilience in the face of antisemitism, recently, resilience cannot be our answer,” Wu said. “The work of dismantling antisemitism cannot be the work of the Jewish community alone. We are all responsible for lifting up the voices of those who are silenced, marginalized, and oppressed.”
The vibrant light of the billboard confronting pedestrians as they left TD Garden echoed the meaning of the blue square emoji, a symbol popularized in March as part of the foundation’s national “Stand Up To Jewish Hate” campaign. Kraft encouraged others to use the emoji online to show solidarity with the Jewish community during a period of rising antisemitism.
It’s “an easy way for all Americans to show their commitment for standing with the Jewish community,” Kraft said. “But really, standing up for all kinds of hate and bigotry . . . standing together and fighting together with such a diverse group of people, is exactly what we need in America now.”
Sonel Cutler can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @cutler_sonel.