ATHENS, Greece — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney joined local leaders from 53 cities in 23 countries for a two-day conference in Europe to discuss a rise in antisemitism globally.
The 2022 Mayors Summit Against Antisemitism in Athens, Greece is being called the largest gathering ever for officials to talk about antisemitism.
Stoney accepted an invitation from the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond (JCFR) to participate in the summit hosted in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) and Center for Jewish Impact (CJI).
CBS 6 spoke to Stoney and Director of the Jewish Community Relations Committee at JCFR Basya Gartenstein about the visit on Thursday. They acknowledged that some individuals are sowing seeds of division and hate from political leaders and celebrities on Twitter.
“Standing up against hate isn't a left issue or right issue or a Democratic issue or Republican issue. It's just being a great human being,” Stoney explained. “I think that every citizen, no matter who you pray to, who you love, what color your skin, they deserve to be free from antisemitism.”
While Jews make up less than 2% of the U.S. population, 2020 FBI hate crime statistics show that nearly 60% of all religious-bias hate crimes target Jews.
JCFR said there has been a proliferation of incidents in Richmond, including fliers posted around the city spouting hate and false claims about the Jewish people.
“We need to really look at the incidents that are happening, the hate crimes, their content, their character, and be able to talk about that across party lines and build bipartisan partnerships to deal with this. But also realize that, like the mayor said, this is an issue of a basic human right,” Gartenstein added.
The Jewish Community Relations Committee (JCRC) is implementing a strategic plan to "Outshine Hate." The plan recognizes that hate groups prey on the vulnerability of minorities.
Stoney said as a Black man and the mayor of the former capital of the Confederacy, he sees parallels between the struggles in America.
“You can't talk about the strides of within the black community over the many, many decades, going back to the civil rights movement without talking about the special relationship between the Jewish people and an African Americans,” Stoney stated. “We marched together, we bled together, and there are times in which we have quarrel, but we would not be where we are as a country without that special relationship.”
The group said the goal of the summit is to share challenges and experiences, but also finding “creative solutions” to counter the alarming rise in incidents of bigotry and hate not only across the world — but in our own backyards.
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