Minnesota’s top elected officials stood in unity with local Jewish leaders Tuesday night to denounce a recent rash of anti-Semitic hate crimes during an ecumenical rally that drew an estimated 1,400 people to Temple Israel in south Minneapolis.
The gathering was designed as a show of solidarity with Jewish communities across the country following a bloody machete attack at a Hanukkah celebration in New York last month. Throngs of people packed the synagogue to capacity as the event began while others crowded into an overflow room.
Though brought together by tragedy, many in the audience were in high spirits — embracing friends and loved ones and reminiscing in the moment. They heard from a long slate of speakers — including Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan — who pledged their support and stressed the importance of banding together in the face of hate.
“There is no room for fear and there is no room for hate. Not in Minnesota,” Walz said. “You have my pledge and commitment that the authority that I have and the resources of the entire state of Minnesota will be brought to bear that every single one of you can feel safe in your community, safe in your school, safe in your worship.”
In the New York attack on Dec. 28, a 37-year-old man has been charged with federal hate crimes for stabbing five people. Authorities said the man possessed handwritten journals with anti-Semitic references and had recently gone online for information on Hitler and synagogue locations.
The machete attack, decried as “an act of domestic terrorism,” is the latest in a spate of assaults targeting Jewish people across the country.
The Anti-Defamation League counted 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents across the country in 2018, including 28 in Minnesota.
Among the national incidents was a shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh that left 11 dead and six injured.
Numbers from 2019 haven’t been tallied, but they will include shootings at a kosher market in Jersey City, N.J., last month and at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., in April.
“People are surprised by the swell of violence against the Jewish community,” said Rabbi Marcia Zimmerman of Temple Israel.
She and other speakers called on lawmakers to bolster state hate crime laws during the upcoming legislative session. Walz said he supports the idea and has asked Democrats to look into it.
Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, noted that “by many measures, anti-Semitic attitudes are at an all-time low” in the U.S. But the community must still aggressively address “spasmodic moments of violence.”
“It’s important for reassuring people that in these difficult moments there is solidarity from the greater community,” he said.