(JTA) — A “National Day of Hate” against Jews planned by white supremacists that triggered sweeping warnings from law enforcement and Jewish security officials came and went without significant incident on Saturday.
Synagogues and Jewish institutions across the United States had spent the preceding days shoring up their security procedures, reassuring their congregants and requesting extra patrols from local police.
But the Anti-Defamation League, which monitors hate, wrote on Twitter that a meaningful escalation of antisemitic activity did not come to pass, despite some white supremacist actions and propaganda drops around the country. “Despite concerns over increased antisemitic activity, 2/25 has so far been a pretty typical Saturday in America,” the organization tweeted.
Some Jews had said they were staying home or taking other precautions against the threats of synagogue vandalism issued earlier in the week by a small extremist group in Iowa. Police published bulletins about the threats, but law enforcement officials in New York and Chicago said ahead of Saturday that they saw no indications of concrete threats. That assessment was echoed by the Secure Community Network, a group that coordinates security for Jewish institutions nationwide.
“This is yet another example of how social media is contributing to the rise in antisemitism, this time by spreading and amplifying the activities of what is surely a very small group of people,” Julie Platt, chair of the Jewish Federations of North America, wrote in an email on Friday.
Reports from synagogues suggested that the pews were crowded on Shabbat with Jews who said they would not be deterred by hate. In some cases, they were joined by non-Jewish allies who wanted to show their support.
“It was packed,” said Rabbi Eric Woodward of Beth El-Keser Israel in New Haven, Connecticut, where a preplanned Silly Hat Shabbat was transformed at the last moment into an act of defiance.
“We are wearing silly hats tomorrow because it is the first Shabbat of Adar, the month when we are supposed to ‘increase our joy’ and get ready for the costume holiday of Purim,” Woodward had written to his congregants on Friday. “Normally, it’s hard to know how to fight these abstract forces of hate. But tomorrow, you can do that.”
Communities demonstrated defiance in other ways, too. Temple Emanu-El in New York City, for example, held its Shabbat morning services on Fifth Avenue, rather than inside its majestic sanctuary on the block. Among those attending were non-Jews who wanted to show their support.
“For me, today was a symbol of resistance, of being in solidarity with the Jewish people. With all of the threats and bad things, it’s a symbol of strength and solidarity,” Jose del Rosairo told the New York Post.
That was exactly what Jewish advocates had urged as Shabbat neared. The ADL had encouraged Jews to turn Saturday into “Shabbat of Peace, Not Hate.” Meanwhile, social media influencers exhorted their followers to demonstrate their Jewish pride and support for Jews under threat.
“Some fringe white supremacist groups have planned a national ‘day of hate’ against the Jewish people on Saturday,” read a widely shared Instagram post by Jessica Seinfeld, who previously went viral by offering non-Jews a way to signal online that they rejected antisemitism by the rapper Kanye West.
“We are hoping our friends will help us counter this idea with their love and light,” wrote Seinfeld, a cookbook author and wife of the comedian Jerry Seinfeld. “Will you consider joining a Jewish friend at synagogue for Shabbat? Help us fill our sanctuaries with courage and friendship.”
One of the most prominent non-Jews to join a synagogue service on Saturday was New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, who was at New York City’s Congregation Beit Simchat Torah, which primarily serves LGBTQ Jews.
“When there are people out there who think that by their words alone, by declaring a day of hate, that the rest of us, particularly those in the Jewish community, would cower and say, ‘Well, we’re afraid of them. We’re going to stay home,’” Hochul said in brief remarks to the congregation. “They certainly misjudged the situation.”
The ADL said there had in fact been protests by antisemitic groups in Ohio and Georgia on Saturday and antisemitic materials distributed in at least four other states, even as feared violence did not materialize.
“We know that the threat does not magically disappear as the sun sets on this so-called ‘day of hate,’” the organization tweeted. “We know that vigilance is part of being Jewish in America in 2023. And we take great comfort in knowing we do not face this darkness alone.” PJC