By Barney Blakeney
In response to the recent rash of hate crimes perpetrated against Jews, the National Action Network last week asked its local chapters to conduct press conferences to emphasize the organization’s support of and solidarity with the Jewish community. January 2, South Carolina NAN President James Johnson, along with Charleston attorney Larry Kobrovsky and State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, did just that.
A spate of incidents recently has occurred in New York and New Jersey sparking a cry for unity against anti-Semitism. According to a recent Washington Post article, anti-Semitic attacks are on the rise around the country. In New York City, anti-Semitic crimes have jumped 21 percent in the past year. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was quoted saying, “This is a national phenomenon that we are seeing and it’s frightening and it’s disturbing. If anyone thinks that something poisonous is not going on in this country, then they’re in denial.”
Johnson and Kobrovsky have a relationship spanning more than 30 years. Johnson said, “I have a personal relationship with Larry. I want him and others to know we stand with them. Although we don’t have any problems here locally many of us, especially our millennials, don’t know about the integral role the Jewish community has played in the history of the civil rights struggle and the development of institutions like the NAACP. We have a similar history of persecution and genocide. The question is not whether anti-Semitism will happen here, but when. The problem won’t stop, so we have to be aware.”
Kobrovsky said the display of solidarity not only is welcome, but is important because of the historical and emotional bonds shared between the two communities. “What’s happening is alarming,” said Kobrovsky whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Eastern Europe. “My family experienced the same persecution and genocide in Lithuania as Blacks experienced in America. And while there’s always been some targeting of Jews in Europe simply for existing, this is unique in America.” He said the emphasis being placed on the phenomenon by the National Action Network is merited, but he fears their message may not be getting through.
Gailliard said he will focus renewed energy on passage of a hate crime bill (House Bill 3063) introduced in the S.C. Legislature last year. That bill still is tied up in committees. South Carolina is among only a handful of states which don’t have laws against hate crimes.