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Residents in Utah urged to examine their sensitivity to antisemitism

Jan 17, 2022, 5:54 PM | Updated: 6:24 pm
Utah antisemitism...
Rabbi Benny Zippel, left, and Rabbi Avremi Zippel take part in a menorah lighting ceremony during halftime of a Jazz-Portland Trail Blazers game at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, as Chabad Lubavitch of Utah hosts the fifth Jewish Heritage Night with the Jazz. Photo credit: Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Members of Utah’s Jewish community are speaking out after a man took four people hostage in a Texas synagogue this weekend. And they ask others in Utah to look within themselves to determine whether they’ve become “used to” antisemitism.

The hours-long standoff in Colleyville, Texas ended Saturday night when troopers stormed the building. And fatally shot Malik Faisal Akram, 44, a British national.

‘What, again?’

Rabbi Avremi Zippel, with Chabad of Utah, said his first thought when he heard the news was, ‘again?’ Zippel said while this incident happened in Texas, antisemitism is a problem nationally. That includes Utah, he said, and people need to understand how common attacks like this are.

“I’d encourage people in the local community to wake up to the fact that the Jewish people are not ‘others,’ we’re not some faceless cabal that exists in some corner of the world. Unseen and unknowable. We are your neighbors, we’re the people that you work with.”

Zippel says after the 2018 synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh, some synagogues in Utah increased their security and have had active shooter training. That includes Congregation Kol Ami, Utah’s largest Jewish synagogue.

‘This is happening again’

When Ron Zamir heard the news, he said his first thought was that ‘this is happening again.’ As a member of the United Jewish Federation of Utah, he knows that antisemitism exists. And he believes that other people might have become desensitized to it.

“Is it easier for someone in our school,” Zamir said, “somebody in a place of business, somebody in a religious congregation to stay silent when they are in a group setting where somebody talks about, you know, ‘the Jewish control,’ or ‘how good Jews are with money.'”

Zamir encourages Utahns to ask themselves if they hear antisemitic remarks made by friends or family. And, if so, if they are willing to call attention to them.

The United Jewish Federal of Utah has created an antisemitism task force where people can learn more.

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Residents in Utah urged to examine their sensitivity to antisemitism