How Two Local Organizations are Fighting Hate with Diversity

Story by: Carter Mudgett

Positioned in a row a few feet to the right of a blue vertical banner that read “Together Against Hate” in bold, colored lettering, four people sat in high top chairs. From left to right, they were Dr. Rudy Jamison, director of the Jacksonville Humans Right Commission and a University of North Florida professor; Claire Goforth, a journalist; Dr. Kimberly Allen, the chief executive officer of 904WARD; and Morris Bendit, a Holocaust survivor.

A few weeks shy of one year ago, antisemitic messages were projected onto the TIAA Bank Field where the annual Florida-Georgia football game was happening. Though the night was tarnished by hate, it inspired a new partnership between the Jewish Community Alliance and the First Coast YMCA. 

Together, the two organizations created a new speaker series entitled “Together Against Hate,” said JCA CEO Adam Chaskin at the kickoff event on Sep. 14. The series will bring five different topics of hate to five different places across the city. The idea is to bring diverse voices to diverse places. 

Between local, state and national speakers, Jacksonville residents will have the opportunity to learn more about all forms of hate and how to fight back. 

It’s no exaggeration to say that the Jewish community, black community and others like them have been victims of hate for centuries. Whether that be antisemitism or racism, hate takes many forms. 

“This is something we’ve dealt with literally for thousands of years,” said Rabbi Shmuli Novack, founder of the Chabad of Southside. “It’s a new age, it’s a new evolution and it’s something we cannot take lightly, but at the same time I think it’s having a galvanizing effect, as opposed to one of depressing or deterring the Jewish community.”

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 3,697 antisemitic incidents across America. It was the highest number in the organization’s nearly 45-year history and a 36% increase from 2021. Yet, it wasn’t an outlier. 2022 was the third time in the last five years that the year-end total was the highest number ever recorded, the ADL wrote in their annual audit.

There’s been a similar trend for other minority communities as well. 

Of the 8,753 victims of hate crimes in 2021, 97% were related to gender identity, religion, sexual orientation and race, ethnicity and ancestry, according to the FBI’s 2021 Hate Crime Statistics. In fact, hate crimes saw an increase against Black people, Jewish people, the LGBTQ community and Asian people between 2020 and 2021, according to the FBI. 

September’s event was just the first of five speaker presentations the two organizations plan to hold this year. 

Of course, hate is not a new concept and won’t be eradicated from the city in a few months. Though no plans have been announced for the series to return in 2024, Chaskin said he anticipates it will. Once the series wraps up, Jacksonville will join in a run against hate in February.