How St. Louisans are speaking out against hate


Bill Motchan, Special to the Jewish Light

A menorah lighting on Dec. 2 celebrated both the fourth night of Hanukkah and called attention to the presence of antisemitism. The St. Louis Jewish community brought together faith leaders and state elected officials to speak out against hate during “Shine A Light on Antisemitism” at the Jewish Federation.

The threat of hate and violence is especially significant among Jews, said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis during her opening remarks.

“Our community is scared,” Neiss said. “According to the FBI, 57.5% of religiously motivated hate crimes were against the Jewish community and Jews comprise just 2% of the U.S. population. One in three Jewish students on college campus have experienced antisemitism in the past year.”

Attention to Jewishness

Three representatives of the JCRC Student to Student program spoke to the audience about their own experiences, including Micah Frank, who said he did not wear a kippah because he doesn’t want to call attention to his Jewishness and make himself a potential target.

“When I visited Israel most people were wearing a Star of David and a kippah, and for two weeks I wore a kippah and I felt comfortable, but then I came back to America and I didn’t feel comfortable wearing a kippah unless I was in synagogue,” Frank said.

Reverend Rodrick Burton, the pastor of New Northside Missionary Baptist Church, told the audience that “We must be very careful and intentional to educate our community because absent of the knowledge of that history, many of our younger generations are falling under the influence of new friends who malign and divide with antisemitic talk and hate.”

Federation Board Chair Greg Yawitz said the event was important to call attention to not just antisemitism but also bias.

“It’s important that we have this program to show not only the challenges we have in the Jewish community with antisemitism but also to show that we have partners in the community in the fight and all across the state to help us fight bias and hate. It’s important to talk about it and shine a light on it.”