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Chicagoans gather to protest anti-Semitism: ‘We do not want people to feel like they need to shy away from their identity.'

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 1/7/2020 By Javonte Anderson, Chicago Tribune
a group of people standing in front of a building: Laurence Bolotin, executive director of the American Jewish Committee\u2019s Chicago office, helps organize a group photo in front of The Bean at Millennium Park in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2019. © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Laurence Bolotin, executive director of the American Jewish Committee\u2019s Chicago office, helps organize a group photo in front of The Bean at Millennium Park in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2019.

More than 100 people gathered in Millennium Park on Monday afternoon to take a stand against growing anti-Semitism throughout the U.S.

The event, organized by the American Jewish Committee, convened members of Chicago’s Jewish communities and their allies, capping their demonstration with a photo in front of The Bean.

“We want the Jewish community and all of our allies to come together and show Chicago and the world that we are proud to be Jewish,” said Laurence Bolotin, executive director of the American Jewish Committee’s Chicago office. “We do not want people to feel like they need to shy away from their identity.”

Violent attacks against Jews have rattled tight-knit communities throughout the country in recent weeks. Six people were killed, including a police officer, in a shooting targeting a Kosher grocery store in New Jersey last month. The day before Christmas, a Jewish man in Brooklyn, New York, was hit with a chair and punched in the face while walking down the sidewalk. And several people were stabbed last month after a man broke into the suburban New York home of a Hasidic rabbi and attacked people inside who were celebrating Hanukkah.

a person wearing a costume: Ellen Cannon gathers with others at Millennium Park in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2019. © Antonio Perez / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS Ellen Cannon gathers with others at Millennium Park in Chicago on Jan. 6, 2019.

But the high-profile, anti-Semitic violence was not the only reason the group demonstrated. In a recent national survey conducted by the AJC, nearly one-third of participants said they try to conceal their Jewish identity in public.

“There should be no reason people should feel afraid to be who they are,” Bolotin said.

“It’s important for the Jewish people to stand up and be heard,” said Jeff Stone, a member of the American Jewish Committee’s national Executive Council.

Marissa Rubin, who traveled from Skokie to attend the rally, was among those who expressed frustration about the rise of hate crimes against Jews.

“I don’t understand why I can’t celebrate Hanukkah in my house and be worried that somebody will come in and attack me,” Rubin said. “With everything going on in the country, I feel it’s my Jewish duty to be here to support the cause.”

According to The New York Times, an upcoming report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino shows anti-Semitic hate crimes in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago are on track to reach an 18-year high.

Last year, a man tried to use three Molotov cocktails to set fire to a synagogue in the Lakeview East neighborhood.

Aviv Ezra, consul general of Israel to the Midwest, said that Jews in America should be able to walk the streets “proudly” and not in “any way, shape or form” be intimidated to express their Judaism.

"We know that this country will never accept hatred against Jews or any minorities," he said. "Therefore, we are here today, sending a strong message saying we are Jewish and proud to be Jewish."

And the group of people gathered at The Bean did indeed have one last message before they departed Millennium Park.

“We’re Jewish and proud!” they chanted.

janderson@chicagotribune.com

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