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As antisemitism rises in Connecticut, Jewish organizations call for compassion

A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood. 11 people were killed there in America's deadliest antisemitic attack on Oct. 27, 2018.
Gene J. Puskar
A Star of David hangs from a fence outside the dormant landmark Tree of Life synagogue.

A Sacred Heart University panel on antisemitism explored the difficulties of being Jewish in America on Tuesday.

Antisemitic incidents are rising in Connecticut.

The American Jewish Committee is the oldest Jewish civil rights foundation in the country. Every year, they conduct a survey of Jewish-Americans.

American Jewish Committee of Westchester and Fairfield’s Regional Director Myra Clark-Siegel said the most recent survey revealed that more than 40% of American Jews changed their behavior last year to avoid being targeted by antisemitism.

Additionally, the survey found that more than 40% of American Jews feel less safe this year than they did last year.

“A yarmulke which a Jewish man would wear out of piety, he won't wear it,” Clark-Siegel said. “Or a Jewish star necklace, you tuck it in, you don't wear it. Or Hebrew writing on a t-shirt, you won't wear it. Or maybe even not going to synagogue, because you're afraid. Not going to your house of worship to freely express your faith in a religious manner, because you're afraid. This is one example of what we are finding that the American-Jewish community is facing today.”

Jill Friedman from the American Jewish Committee of Westchester and Fairfield said Jewish college students around the country face antisemitism from peers, and sometimes even university staff.

“There is a significant percentage of Jewish students on campuses, and these are general campuses,” Friedman said. “A third of them have avoided or experienced antisemitism on their campus. 26% say they have difficulty taking off the Jewish holidays.”

According to the survey, more than 20% of Jewish college students avoid wearing anything that identifies them as Jewish.

One in 10 Connecticut towns had an antisemitic incident last year.

Molly is a reporter covering Connecticut. She also produces Long Story Short, a podcast exploring public policy issues across Connecticut.