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ZOA Report Highlights Incidents of Antisemitism in Philadelphia in 2021

On the eve of the Jewish holiday of Purim, the Greater Philadelphia chapter of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) released a 27-page report on incidents of antisemitism involving public officials and institutions in 2021.

Purim—a holiday commemorating Queen Esther saving the Jews in ancient Persia from a government official’s plot to kill them — is the perfect time to highlight the problem.

“We wanted to show people how bad it is,” said Steve Feldman, executive director of the Greater Philadelphia ZOA. “It’s not just minor nuisances. It’s pretty bad.”

The Delaware Valley Journal previously reported about two of the incidents. In one, anti-Israel content was posted on the website of the Free Library of Philadelphia, including a video of a library employee telling children “Zionism looks a lot like racism.”  Although the library’s director promised to end those antisemitic programs, they continued, the report said.

In another major incident, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney issued an official proclamation in support of a pro-Palestinian Liberation Organization event on the first day of Hanukkah. The Israeli consulate in New York sent Kenney a letter asking him not to attend.

Other elected officials attended that Nov. 29 event, including three members of the city council, two state representatives, and one state senator—all Democrats, except one council member who belongs to the Working Families Party.

Kenney “did not include any Palestinian Jews in the event…It was the Jewish people who lived in the land in pre-state Israel for generations who were commonly known as ‘the Palestinians’…Through its actions, Kenney and the city erased this history, as well—even though there are Palestinian-Jews living in our region today,” the report said.

Also, Kenney and the other officials spoke in front of Palestinian Liberation Organization flags, even though the PLO has murdered and maimed thousands of Jews and hundreds of Americans.

Other incidents in the new report include the School District of Philadelphia allowing a student organization, the Muslim Students Association, with a decidedly anti-Israel/anti-Jewish record to have chapters in two high schools, Northeast and William W. Bodine. It also works closely with a cultural organization that has erased Israel from its maps of the Middle East and takes anti-Israel/anti-Zionist positions. The Black Lives Matter organization is a regular influence within the school system, according to the ZOA.  And BLM demonstrators have vandalized synagogues and Jewish-owned businesses, the report said.

A statement from the Philadelphia School District said, “The School District of Philadelphia is a culturally rich district with a diverse population of students and families. In our statement on anti-racism, we believe in, and will continue to cultivate, a system that addresses all forms of inequity. The School District of Philadelphia is committed to providing safe, healthy, inclusive environments that are free from all forms of discrimination and foster learning

“The school district recognizes that the discussion of certain topics can be highly charged. The district also recognizes that such discussions can help students learn to identify important issues, explore fully and fairly all sides of an issue, weigh carefully the values and factors involved, and develop skills for formulating and evaluating positions.​ ​However, such discussions should always be free of coercion or bias. The district further has a policy for investigating allegations of bias and discrimination, neither of which have any place in our schools.”

Also, a city-sponsored soccer tournament, the Unity Cup, designates “Palestine” as a country on a city website, although it is not a nation, the report noted.

And a city agency that helps newly-released prison inmates displayed on its website a Marxist organization’s article which attacked the Jewish state in an anti-Zionist screed laced with false allegations about Jews. After ZOA objected, the article was removed.

A city-owned Israeli flag was set ablaze, and the incident was recorded on video. One of the vandals was apprehended but was released without being charged. The Israeli flag has been vandalized two other times, in 2018 and 2016, the report said.

The report calls on the city to take steps to remedy and “counter Jew-hatred,” including at the library. It also calls for Kenney and other officials who took part in the pro-PLO event to apologize.

“Today, every synagogue, Jewish school, and Jewish community center must have sophisticated security systems to protect people, and most and perhaps all have armed security guards at all times or when there is an event or worship service. Jews have been murdered in synagogues, in Jewish businesses, and at holiday celebrations, and recently a rabbi and two congregants were held hostage in a synagogue.”

“There is no telling who in the community-at-large could be triggered by false accusations about the Jewish state and the Jewish people,” the report said.

A spokesperson for the City of Philadelphia did not respond to requests for comment.


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