Jewish organization takes stand against hate with new billboards

A Jewish organization is taking a stand against hate in the form of new billboards. There are now at least three billboards in Tampa as well as other major cities displaying messages condemning antisemitism.

"The billboards are working in terms of sparking discussion and dialog and that's what we hope to be able to accomplish," Tampa Jewish Community Centers & Federation President Jeffrey Berger said.

He hopes the billboards spark conversations about the history and harm of antisemitism. One reads, "Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But you're not a billboard." Another says "We're just 75 years since the gas chambers. So no, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn't an overreaction."

"There are still so many incidents of antisemitism today that it's not done in over. We need to be cognizant of the fact that bad things are still happening," Berger said.

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In 2021, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 2,717 incidents of antisemitic assaults, harassment, and vandalism in the US. That's the highest the organization has ever seen since 1979 when it started tracking the data. In Florida, the ADL recorded 190 antisemitic incidents in 2021. That's more than double the 90 incidents recorded just two years earlier.

"It's very disturbing. Unfortunately, the increasing rise in anti-Semitism here in Florida is indicative of a nationwide problem," Berger said.

It's why the organization "JewBelong" – a play on words to the phrase "you belong" – invested in billboards in major cities around the county. Tampa now has three all along I-275 reaching thousands of eyeballs each day.

"Holocaust didn't start with the gas chambers. It started with speech and hate and bullying and attacks and a number of different antisemitic incidents, attacks against Jews and others. And then it gradually built up into what the Holocaust was," Berger said.

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Berger feels compelled to speak up.

"We're at the point now where it's alarming enough that we have to speak out, we've got to raise awareness, and we've got to alert people to the fact that this is happening and that it's not acceptable," Berger said.