On December 4th we heard from Amy Spitalnick, the executive director of Integrity First for America. Amy is sometimes referred to as a modern day Nazi-hunter. In this case, the Nazi’s are the neo-Nazis who joined forces with white nationalists and KKK members to rally in Charlottesville, VA in August, 2017. The crisis of violent, anti-Semitic, white nationalism is growing — and Integrity First for America’s Charlottesville lawsuit has emerged as a model for using the legal system to fight back.
The Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally was a call to raid the progressive college town and launch an all-out race war. On August 11th, they marched with torches and surrounded a group of students and community members on the University of Virginia campus. White nationalists pushed, punched, and threw lighted torches. They chanted “Jews will not replace us,” “blood and soil,” and “this is our town now.”
On August 12th, they marched military-style to Emancipation Park, shouting racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic slurs while brandishing weapons and Nazi symbols. They charged through a line of interfaith clergy. They attacked and assaulted many peaceful counter-protesters. After police dispersed them, James Fields drove his car into a crowd of protesters killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Some of the truly shocking facts Amy noted include:
- The white nationalist organizers meticulously planned the attack on Charlottesville months in advance.
- The lawsuit provides a glimpse into the on-line discussions the defendants and alleged co-conspirators engaged in months before the rally. According to the suit, conversations on a gaming site called Discord covered the specific weapons to bring, including semi-automatic rifles, shields and armor. Also discussed was whether it was “legal to run over protesters,” dubbing the tactic of plowing through a crowd as a “protester digester.” There were even discussions on how to sew the Nazi symbol on their shirts and directions on what uniform to wear.
- In the two years since the “Unite the Right” rally, Charlottesville proved not to be an anomaly but a flashpoint foreshadowing a much larger crisis.
- Defendants in this civil case are a who’s who of the violent white supremacist movement — leaders like Richard Spencer, Andrew Anglin, Chris Cantwell, Matthew Heimbach, and hate groups such as Identity Europa, Vanguard America, and League of the South. They are at the center of this movement (with anti-Semitism at its core), with disturbing connections to the broader rise in white supremacist violence.
- The lawyers leading the case and the plaintiffs they represent have been threatened by some of the defendants, requiring protection for those participating.
Leading the plaintiffs’ case is Roberta Kaplan, the lawyer who made history when she defeated the Supreme Court’s Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. Now she’s seeking to combat the leadership behind America’s growing white nationalist movement to bankrupt them into obscurity and expose their sources of financing.
A trial date for this landmark case has been set for October 2020. While IFA is optimistic about its outcome, the case requires significant resources. The security and evidence collection costs are substantial. Every dollar donated to IFA supports this vital case.
For more information about the case, receive update and to make a donation, please go to https://www.integrityfirstforamerica.org/about-us
|Inspirational words by Bari Weiss were delivered at last Sunday’s March against hate and antisemitism. I encourage you to read her powerful words and share them with loved ones and friends. Like Bari Weiss, you will be very proud and stand tall against hate. Rabbi Bennett Miller
My name is Bari Weiss.
I am a proud American. I am a proud New Yorker. And I am a proud Jew.
I am not a Jew because people hate my religion, my people, and my civilization.
Not for a single moment does Jew-hatred, like the kind we are seeing in this city, make me a Jew.
I am a Jew because of the audacity and the iconoclasm of Abraham, the first Jew of all. The whole world was awash in idols and he stood alone to proclaim the truth: There is one God.
I am a Jew because my ancestors were slaves. And I am a Jew because the story of their Exodus from Egypt, their liberation from slavery, is a story that changed human consciousness forever.
I am a Jew because our God commands us to never oppress the stranger.
I am Jew because Ruth, the first convert to Judaism, told her mother-in-law Naomi, “your people will be my people and your god will be my god,” reminding us of the centrality of the Jewish people to Judaism.
I am a Jew because of Queen Esther, who understood that she had attained her royal position in order to save her people from destruction.
I am a Jew because the Maccabees were the original resistance. Because they modeled for us — and for all peoples — how to resist the temptation of self-erasure.
I am a Jew because when Rabbi Akiva was being tortured to death by the Romans he laughed. He laughed and he told his students that he could finally fulfill the commandment to love God with all of his being.
I am a Jew because even after the heart of Judaism and Jewish sovereignty were destroyed my people refused to accept the logic of history and disappear. And I am a Jew because some of our greatest renewals took place in exile.
I am a Jew because my people has been targeted and despised and murdered by the Nazis and Soviets.
I am a Jew because evil hates my people.
I am a Jew because because my people managed to turn destruction into redemption by returning to their land after 2,000 years.
I am a Jew because our Founders saw themselves as new Israelites.
I am a Jew because the biblical words on the liberty bell — proclaim liberty throughout the land! — rang out from the righteous mouths of this country’s abolitionists as they fought for universal freedom in this New Jerusalem.
I am a Jew because it was Emma Lazarus who etched the biblical injunction to welcome the stranger onto the consciousness of America when she wrote the words: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
I am a Jew because of the martyred of Tree of Life and Chabad of Poway and Jersey City. And I am a Jew because of the courage of those who fought back in Monsey and who then, immediately after the attack, gathered together to sing. And I am Jew because my brothers and sisters in Crown Heights and Boro Park and Williamsburg who refuse to hide their Judaism.
I am a Jew because of students across this country who refuse to be smeared and denigrated because of who they are, who are standing up against humiliation, pressure and abuse to affirm the justness of Zionism.
I am a Jew because my brothers and sisters in England and France are battling the anti-Semitism of populist thugs and the anti-Semitism of politicians in parliament.
I am a Jew because I refuse to stay silent in the face of injustice. I am a Jew because I have no patience for leaders who speak boldly while failing to take the actions necessary to protect our community. Or for partisan hacks that claim anti-Semitism is the exclusive domain of their political opponents. Or for leaders who believe they can fight Jew-hatred while making political alliances with anti-Semites.
I am a Jew because I refuse to lie.
I am a Jew because Jews are of every color and class and politics and language. And I am a Jew because hatred of us has no color or class or politics or language.
I am a Jew because Jews do not cause Jew hatred. Ever.
Today, as in so many times in history, there are many forces in the world insisting that Jews must disappear or die. Some say it bluntly. Some cloak it in the language of progress.
But I am a Jew because of I know that there is force far greater than that. And that is the force of who we are and the force of our world-changing ideas.
The Jewish people were not put on Earth to be anti-anti-Semites. We were put on Earth to be Jews.
We are the people whose God never slumbers or sleeps, and so neither can we.
We are the lamp-lighters.
We are the ever-dying people that refuses to die.
The people of Israel lives now and forever.
Am Yisrael Chai.
This past weekend, I journeyed to Chicago to attend my first (of hopefully many) URJ Biennials. For many years, friends, family, and Jewish professionals have told me about how incredible of an experience Biennial was, so I was ecstatic to have this unique opportunity. I attended Biennial as a delegate for NFTY GER (as the Social Action Chair) and Urban Mitzvah Corps (as the UMC Student Coordinator). These leadership positions that I currently hold gave me the opportunity to attend Biennial, and have an experience that I couldn’t have imagined prior to being there. Sitting in a room with 5,000 other Reform Jews who all knew the same prayers, tunes, and songs as me was surreal. Everywhere I turned, whether during Shabbat services or the song sessions, everyone was singing and beaming with pride. This was unlike anything I have ever experienced in my sixteen years of life. I ran into so many people I know from my involvement with Temple Emanu-El of Westfield, NFTY, URJ Camp Harlam, and Urban Mitzvah Corps, and had the privilege of meeting many other teen leaders and Jewish professionals from all over North America. I roomed with two teens from Wisconsin and one from Massachusetts, and all of them shared with me what NFTY means to them, and how proud they are to be Jewish. We discussed the sessions we attended and the services we participated in, and each of us felt a deeper connection with Judaism as the weekend went along. I had the opportunity to sit in on two sessions, a session for teen advocacy and a session about Hanukkah in Israel. During the teen advocacy session, I learned new ways to fundraise, to spread awareness about a topic of interest, and how to get more involved in the community. I plan to share these innovative ideas with my local youth group (TEWTY), NFTY GER, Urban Mitzvah Corps, and my high school, Golda Och Academy. During the session about Hanukkah, I was able to use my previous knowledge of cooking and learn new techniques on how to cook like an Israeli. Famous Jewish chef TIna Wasserman facilitated the session on how to make Tahini Sufganiyot, Hanukkah Gelt from chocolate truffles, and Israeli Couscous salad. While at Biennial, I also got to hear and join along with many famous Jewish singers such as Dan Nichols, Alan Goodis, and the band Nefesh Mountain. These song sessions and concerts reminded me of my Jewish roots that started at URJ Camp Harlam and have continued through NFTY and Urban Mitzvah Corps. Having another opportunity to sing my favorite songs with everyone at Biennial was something I’ll always remember.
> Biennial was one of the most influential, impactful, and enjoyable experiences of my life. I learned, sang, talked, and ate my way through Chicago and I wouldn’t change any of it. I hope to have the chance to attend URJ Biennial 2021 in Washington, D.C. to build on this incredible experience.
Temple Emanu-El is proud to launch an environmental awareness campaign that we invite you to be a part of. Starting in January we will be adopting 10 commandments that members of our community will make towards limiting our environmental impact (such as waste reduction, water conservation and cleaning up litter). By signing up for Shomrei Adamah, Guardians of the Earth, you will receive monthly tips, resources and invitations to events that will help you and your familiy adopt small changes that can make a big difference. Click here to be a part of Shomrei Adamah.