Children will recount their recent experiences involving acts of intimidation, harassment and vandalism amid a rising tide of antisemitism at a public rally in Princeton.
The rally is scheduled for 5 p.m. today, June 17, at Hinds Plaza, and the Princeton Public Library at 65 Witherspoon St.
“For years, there has been a disturbing trend of aggression and violence against the Jewish community that has not gone unnoticed—even by our children,” Mark Merkovitz, executive director of The Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks, said in a prepared statement. “Our children should not face this hate without us, standing alongside them, hand in hand. We must be unified in peace as a community at large.”
According to the Anti-Defamation League, New Jersey has experienced dramatic increases in antisemitic incidents involving vandalism, harassment and assaults since 2018, according to the statement.
“I was rushed by a belligerent mob of supposedly peaceful protesters in downtown Princeton for holding up a symbol of my Judaism,” Gabe Silverstein, a sophomore at Princeton High School, who is expected to speak at the rally, said in the statement. “I cannot believe that I can’t feel safe expressing my religion and beliefs in my hometown.”
Schools are not immune to the growing aggression against the Jewish community. Antisemitic incidents involving K-12 schools in New Jersey increased 54% in 2019, compared to a 19% increase nationwide, according to the statement. Incidents at New Jersey colleges and universities also nearly doubled in 2019.
“Each year, we talk to incoming freshmen and one question we are always asked is ‘Do you feel safe being Jewish on campus?’ ” Princeton University rising senior Seth Walensky said in the statement. “Never before has this elicited so much hesitation from myself and my peers.”
In addition to children speaking out against hate at the peace rally, several community and government officials will offer support for unity, including:
— Rabbi David Levy, American Jewish Committee
— Rabbi Jay Kornsgold, Rabbi Beth El
— Ying Lu, Parent Teacher Organization
— Lynne Azarchi, executive director at Kidsbridge
— Jerry Neumann, president of Jewish Federation
— Dave Davis, pastor of Nassau Presbyterian
— Andrew Gross, executive director at New Jersey Israel Commission
— Mark Freda, mayor of Princeton
Hayden Masia, who recently graduated from Princeton Day School, is prepared to talk at the rally about how she feels responsible for defending her faith and squashing the vicious cycle of false conspiracies that spread hate.
“Social media is advertised as a fun space to connect with your friends and watch dumb cat videos,” she said in the statement. “Now we’re here, defending our existence to strangers and worse, to our ‘friends.’ As exhausting as it is, we must fulfill our role as the upstanders.”
About The Rally
The Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks is the primary Jewish fundraising organization in the region that provides critical assistance to agencies supporting its mission. The nonprofit brings together agencies and people dedicated to maintaining, enriching, and empowering the Jewish community from generation to generation. For more information about the rally, visit jewishpmb.org/rally or contact Mark Merkovitz at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-524-9910.