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JHM vandalism symptom of rising anti-Semitism

These are troubling times. Anti-Semitic threats and messages are escalating all around us. Three weeks ago, the words “Hail Hitler” (sic) were found scrawled on an exhibit inside our Holocaust History Center. March 5, a man brazenly unfurled a Nazi flag as Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage at a campaign event at Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. Regardless of one’s political persuasion, unleashing violent images of this kind cannot be tolerated or dismissed.

We must raise our voices.

In early February, the editor of Arizona Jewish Life magazine had a threatening poster glued to her bedroom window in Phoenix by members of a local neo-Nazi group (see story, page 3). Prior to that, a member of the Arizona Association of Black Journalists was targeted as well. Four people were arrested and charged with conspiracy to threaten and intimidate.

This recent escalation is not isolated within Arizona. In late February, I attended the Council of American Jewish Museums conference in Dallas. Days before the conference was convened at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum, members of a white supremacist group placed threatening stickers around the exterior of the museum.

Symbolic violence sets the stage for physical violence.

At the Jewish History Museum, we are responding to rising anti-Semitism through education, outreach and community building. Hundreds of students visited the Gould Family Holocaust History Center on our campus earlier this month. A graduating class of Tucson Police Department cadets spent an entire morning studying the roles law enforcement played during the Nazi era. They ended their day by meeting with a local survivor of Auschwitz.

Four years ago, when the Gould Family Holocaust History Center opened, we did not imagine that the norms that mark anti-Semitism as beyond the bounds of acceptable public behavior would erode so dramatically within such a short period of time. This work is urgent. We will continue to deepen and expand our efforts in each of these areas.

Bryan Davis is executive director of Tucson’s Jewish History Museum/Holocaust History Center, www.jewishhistorymuseum.org. The museum has suspended open hours through March 31.