Standing Against Racist Violence in Charlottesville

Heather Heyer, a 32-year old woman who demonstrated a long commitment to fighting bigotry and racism, was murdered this weekend while white supremacist chants of “blood and soil” and “Jews won’t replace us” stormed through Charlottesville, Virginia — all illuminated by the torches of an organized, racist mob.

The torch-wielding mob is not unprecedented in our history. It is no surprise that this blatant demonstration of hatred was prompted by Charlottesville’s plan to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee, a top Confederate general, a symbol of white supremacy and Black subjugation. And it is no surprise that unbridled hatred for Black people is fused with hatred of Jews, Muslims, and immigrants.

None of this is surprising because we know our adversaries and we have known them for a long time. We also know that we will only defeat them when all of the communities targeted by hate fight back together. When all of our communities unite with unshakable love, our differences and even conflicts can become sources of profound moral courage.

Despite our anguish and frustration, it has never been more important for JFREJ to push forward with our work, grounded in an understanding that racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, xenophobia and economic injustice are inextricably intertwined in America,and that we can’t address one without facing down all of them.

That’s why we have been organizing since November to take action on every front. We’re working with our partners in Muslim, Arab and South Asian communities to create Hate-Free Zones to defend against deportation raids and harassment. We are fighting for the policies and police accountability we need to achieve a true sanctuary city. We are working with our partners in the Movement of the Caring Majority to improve conditions for the most vulnerable throughout New York by demanding a care economy that will finally provide dignity and sustainability.  We are nurturing the relationships with our neighbors and movement partners that will guarantee that when they come for one of us, they come for all of us. We are creating the tools and resources we need to fight anti-Semitism wherever we find it. And we are growing the people power we need to win.

The torches in Charlottesville strike fear, but they also banish shadows and doubt — it has never been more clear what we’re up against, or what the stakes are. We are inspired by all of those who rose up to confront hate this weekend. Their relentless courage shines through like the ner tamid, our eternal lamp on what can be a dark path.

To support the work of anti-racist activists on the ground in Charlottesville, consider donating here or giving to Southerners On New Ground. You can also help sustain the work that JFREJ is doing by joining our Rise Up & Be Counted membership campaign.

We hope you will join us in rising shoulder-to-shoulder together as we build a world in which all can flourish and none need to live in fear.