Carrying signs bearing the slogan “Not here! Not now! Not Ever!” members of Sacramento’s Jewish community were joined Monday evening by people of other faiths, as well as local and state political leaders, in denouncing anti-Semitism.
The rally on the west steps of the state Capitol was organized by the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region in response to events around the world, including the recent swastika graffiti on a Jewish fraternity house in Davis and the display of swastikas at a home in Sacramento’s River Park neighborhood.
Upon seeing a swastika on the wall of the fraternity house in January, Julia Reifkind, president of Aggies for Israel, said she experienced “an indescribable feeling of terror that I will never forget.”
Recent acts of anti-Semitism, she said, were spawned by centuries of hatred against the Jewish people. She and other rally participants called for the community to speak out against acts and symbols of hate.
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Speakers also criticized resolutions by student governments at University of California campuses calling for the system to divest itself of businesses tied to Israeli military actions. UC Davis in January became the seventh UC campus where the student government passed a divestment measure. UC Davis’ student court later overturned the resolution on grounds that it was outside the scope of campus government.
Monday’s rally drew a handful of picketers who stationed themselves on the sidewalk in front of the Capitol. They carried signs condemning what they described as Israel’s human rights abuses against Palestinians.
Paul Leuenberger, a member of the Sacramento Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, argued that opposing Israeli policies is not anti-Semitic. “My question is, if you criticize the government of Honduras, does that make you anti-Hispanic? If you criticize the government of Indonesia, does that make you anti-Asian? And if you criticize the government of America, does that mean you hate all Americans?”
Leuenberger said the group found the display of swastikas at the River Park home appalling and had written a letter asking the resident to take it down.
By Monday night, the swastika display had been torn down and placed on the ground outside the Moddison Avenue house. It was not immediately clear who had removed the swastikas.
Leslie Kuperstein of Carmichael said she believes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is being used by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement and other groups as an excuse for anti-Semitism.
Cindy Wickliffe of Gold River said she is a Christian and decided to come to the rally after hearing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress last week.
“I thought he did an excellent job of explaining the position of the nation of Israel,” Wickliffe said.
Speaking to the crowd, Sacramento Councilman Jay Schenirer said the city has a rich and diverse history but, on occasion, there are those who use the differences to drive a wedge between groups in the community.
“These acts do not align with our values,” he said.
Sacramento Councilman Jeff Harris, who represents the River Park neighborhood where a resident displayed swastikas, said that although the display is not a crime, it is a “tremendous indiscretion.”
“We will fight fire with water and counter dissonance with peace and goodwill,” Harris said.
Former state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg called for UC campuses to adopt a resolution that repudiates all forms of anti-Semitism. “It would be fine to add Islamophobia and racism as well,” he said.
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