Aaron Bloch addresses the New Orleans City Council (Screenshot)
On June 22, the New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a resolution celebrating the diversity of the New Orleans community, with a special emphasis on fighting antisemitism.
Composed by Council President J.P. Morrell after the Biden-Harris administration released the first U.S. national strategy to counter antisemitism, the resolution references the “historic levels of antisemitism” in the U.S., and how the Jewsh community is the target of 63 percent of reported religiously-motivated hate crimes despite being 2.4 percent of the population.
The resolution also references the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, which has been adopted by over 30 countries, many states and other public bodies, to have guidelines for what could be considered antisemitic motivation when a crime occurs.
“New Orleans strives to be a welcoming city to all who want to be welcomed,” the resolution stated, acknowledging that despite that, antisemitic flyers were distributed in some neighborhoods earlier this year.
The resolution adds that those who peddle in antisemitism also fuel hatred toward other groups.
“The city of New Orleans celebrates the diversity of its residents, including its religious minorities, and stands in solidarity with the Biden-Harris Administration’s national strategy to counter antisemitism,” the resolution concludes.
Morrell said “It is important that in the face of hate, in the face of disrespect, in the face of danger and violence, that we stand with everyone in our country, especially our Jewish brothers and sisters, in solidarity.”
Aaron Bloch, director of Jewish-Multicultural and Governmental Affairs at the Jewish Federation of Greater New Orleans, addressed the council, stating that the Holocaust started with “vicious, hateful words,” not gas chambers. “The alarming rise of hate incidents that we have been seeing year after year — including antisemitic incidents — demands our attention and action.”
He said the Jewish community stands in solidarity with all groups facing challenges, recognizing that our fight against antisemitism is intertwined with the struggle against all forms of hate and bigotry. By acknowledging the historical and present challenges faced by the Jewish community, and recognizing the interconnectedness of different forms of hatred, this resolution serves as a powerful reaffirmation of the city’s commitment to inclusivity, equity, and justice.”
That all of the council members were listed as co-authors of the resolution is a powerful message with a significance that can not be overstated, Bloch said. “It signifies a united front against antisemitism, demonstrating that the city of New Orleans is committed to combating hate and protecting the rights and dignity of all its residents.”
Casey Davis also thanked the council for the resolution, saying her Jewish great-grandmother who lived on the French-German border posed as a German to survive during the Holocaust. After the war, when she married and moved to New Orleans, she had to continue to pose as a German “to survive here without discrimination,” and became bitter about “having to keep up with a lie just to not be discriminated (against).”
Council Member Eugene Green referenced the recently-concluded trial of the Tree of Life shooter, noting how in today’s society “there are people who still choose to discriminate against their fellow human beings based on things they don’t even understand.”
He added that this “is an important and powerful resolution.”
Lindsay Baach Friedmann, South Central regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said ADL “deeply values the New Orleans city council for their proactive approach in combating antisemitism in our city.”
Rabbi David Gerber of Gates of Prayer, who gave the invocation at the start of the meeting, commented “we are small, but we are part of the fabric of this community. We feel blessed to be neighbors with our fellow people of faith, and honored to be part of the rich tapestry that is the culture of New Orleans.”