Massachusetts lawmakers in a joint legislative session approved a resolution condemning anti-Semitism and calling for expanded anti-bias and Holocaust education.
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A similar resolution that decries anti-Semitism and all forms of faith-based violence is under consideration in New Jersey, where a bill is expected to pass that state’s senate March 16, followed by its state assembly, according to the New Jersey State Association of Jewish Federations.
The Massachusetts resolution was approved on Monday. It was sponsored by State Senator Cynthia Stone Creem, and Lori A. Ehrlich, both Jewish members of the state legislature, and is expected to be signed later this week by Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo and Senate President Stan Rosenberg. As a joint resolution, it does not require the signature of Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker.
The impetus for the Massachusetts measure came from the Anti Defamation League of New England, which initiated discussion with the two leading sponsors out of concern about the rising incidents of global anti-Semitic violence and the impact it is having in Massachusetts, according to Robert Trestan, regional director of ADL New England. He believes Massachusetts is the first state legislature to approve such a measure.
“Events in Europe have elevated the anxiety within the Jewish community,” Trestan said, referring to the murders at the kosher supermarket in Paris and the murder of a Jewish guard outside a Copenhagen synagogue. The regional ADL has seen a rise in the number of reported incidents of anti-Semitism beginning with last summer’s conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza and since the murders in Europe, he said.
There’s also a concern about security for Jewish institutions, Trestan said, noting that Jewish groups have been specifically targeted. Increasing education about anti-Semitism and bigotry and hate should be a priority for all schools, he said.
“This statewide resolution shines a light on a disturbing trend while sending a strong, unequivocal message that such behavior will not be tolerated in the Commonwealth,” said Ehrlich who represents a district north of Boston with many Jewish residents and institutions.
“In free societies, education and remembering past tragedies like the Holocaust play a critical role in defeating fanatical anti-Semitism,” said Creem, who represents Newton, a suburb of Boston with a substantial Jewish population.
A bill condemning anti-Semitism that calls on American and European leaders to take specific actions to confront it is currently before the U.S. Senate, sponsored by Sens. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Mark Kirk (R-Il.).