Jewish Minnesotans report rise in ‘really ugly’ antisemitic incidents amid Hanukkah celebrations
Hanukkah celebrations came with increased worries in 2023 over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas and a rise in antisemitism since the initial Oct. 7 attack.
Tap the shoulder of just about anyone at St. Louis Park kosher grocery store The Kosher Spot and they’ll share a personal experience with antisemitism.
Michael Sperber, 28, shared one of what he said are several social media messages he received from people he’s never met before that include “anti-Israel” and “anti-Jewish remarks.”
In the screenshot he shared with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the messenger writes, in part, “go to…hell.”
Other incidents literally hit closer to home.
“I put an Israeli flag in front of my apartment on my balcony. And two days later, on the second night of Hanukkah — which is just a couple of days ago, it was egged at,” Sperber shared.
“You just don’t feel safe when there’s somebody… [who] has this intention, or has this — you know, I would say just — mindset that I don’t belong.”
Shopkeeper Leah Giter Roberts said she’s “more conscious” of antisemitism “than ever before,” adding she immigrated to the U.S. from Russia to escape it decades ago.
“I’m asking a question,” she continued, “Why in my short life, [do] I have to go through this twice?”
Steve Hunegs, Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, said nine of his 12 staff members were dedicated to antisemitism response shortly after Oct. 7.
“Intimidating, attacking, and we’ve seen some really ugly incidents in the schools,” Hunegs described.
“Talk about awful. Students go to school, they go to learn, they go for a secure environment, they go because they have confidence in their teachers and the administration,” he continued.
“Then to face hatred because they’re Jews, because of the war in the Middle East, you know — again, it’s one of these situations that undermine the very institutions of our society.”
On Wednesday alone, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension reported “swatting incidents involving emailed bombing and shooting threats” made to nine Jewish facilities. None of the threats were ultimately credible, the press release read.
On a national scale, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 316% increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in the month after the war broke out, compared to the same timeframe in 2022.
There was also a rise in Islamophobia. The Council on American-Islamic Relations, in the same time period, reported a 216% increase in requests for help and reports of bias.
FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday said the agency is investigating 60% more hate crimes since Oct. 7.
“The rate in which we are getting reports of threats, tips, leads, has gone up dramatically,” he said, responding to journalists’ questions.
Also this past week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released security guidance for faith-based communities to help “mitigate the threat of targeted violence and prepare for potential incidents.
“To be honest with you, nobody should be picking a side,” Sperber said, asked about the concurrent rise in Islamophobia. “I just wish for peace in the world.”
Asked the same question, Hunegs added, “The greater point is, attacks on houses of worship are attacks on all of us, and that’s just something to keep in mind.”