LOS ANGELES (CNS) - As antisemitism rises in Los Angeles and elsewhere, The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles Thursday launched a citywide billboard campaign to counter the spread of hate speech with phrases of love, wisdom and encouragement from ancient Jewish texts.
The messages of positivity and unity -- including such phrases as "A Little Bit of Light Dispels a Lot of Darkness" and "Be Slow to Anger and Abounding in Kindness" -- can be seen across the city.
Los Angeles is home to the third-largest Jewish population in the world, behind Israel and New York. L.A's Jewish population has frequently been the target of antisemitic conspiracies, including the notion that "Jews control the Hollywood entertainment and media industries," according to the Jewish Federation.
"The constant antisemitism that Jews here in Los Angeles and around the country and world are seeing has had a devastating impact on our community," said Rob Goldenberg, the Federation's chief creative officer,
"We are worried and we want to do something about it. When we discussed various ideas, we wanted to push back with love. Responding to antisemitism requires a whole of society response."
The campaign follows a string of recent antisemitic incidents in the Los Angeles area.
Most recently, a Texas man was charged this week with felony vandalism with a hate crime allegation for allegedly defacing a large menorah in Beverly Hills -- including carving a Nazi symbol into the menorah's base -- on the first night of Hanukkah.
"The ugliness of antisemitism has revealed itself in many ways throughout our community and across the country in recent weeks," Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón said Tuesday in announcing the charges against Eric Brian King, 47, of Dallas.
"I condemn it, and we must make clear that such hate will not be tolerated. The conduct alleged in this case is despicable, especially coming during one of the most joyous times of the year for Jewish people. We will always stand up against such hatred and hold accountable those who commit hate crimes in Los Angeles County."
In October, some 25 flyers blaming gun control on Jewish people were disbursed in Beverly Hills. Reports of those flyers came the day after seven activists with the anti-Jewish group Goyim Defense League draped signs on an overpass of the San Diego (405) Freeway in Los Angeles that read, "Kanye is right about the Jews" and "Honk if you know."
Several of the activists were photographed making "Heil Hitler" salutes on the overpass. The sign was a reference to antisemitic statements made by rapper Ye -- formerly known as Kanye West.
The menorah incident also occurred in the wake of a report earlier this month that said hate crimes in Los Angeles County rose to their highest level in 19 years in 2021 -- jumping 23% from the previous year.
According to the report by the county Commission on Human Relations, there were 786 reported hate crimes in the county last year, up from 641 the prior year. The number is the highest it has been since 2002.
Religion-based hate crimes jumped by 29%, with 74% of the offenses targeting Jews, according to the report.
Overall, the report noted that reported hate crimes have grown by 105% since falling to an all-time low in 2013.
The billboards were posted in partnership with Outfront Media, whose general manager in Los Angeles, Bryan Canley, responded to the rise in hate speech targeting Jewish people.
"It's been extremely upsetting to see the recent rise in hateful speech taking place," he said.
"There is no place for that in Los Angeles, or anywhere else. We are all part of one community, and it is important to stand in solidarity with our Jewish Angelenos. We have followed The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the work they do to combat hate and wanted to help amplify their efforts. At Outfront, we have the ability to reach the masses with our out-of-home assets, and are proud to spread a shared message of positivity."
The billboard campaign also follows an announcement this week by the Holocaust Museum LA that it has received a $1 million grant from the Jack and Goldie Nomberg Foundation to support free educational tours for students.
The donation comes from the family foundation of Sandra Kanengiser, named for Kanengiser's uncle Jack Nomberg, a Holocaust survivor who died at age 101 in 2019, and his wife, Goldie.
The museum annually welcomes 30,000 fourth-grade through high school students, primarily from underserved communities, and will soon break ground on a major expansion project. Museum officials said that, by 2030, they expect to welcome a half-million visitors annually, including 150,000 students.
As a result of participating in a tour of Holocaust Museum LA, 95% of students agreed that young people should learn about the Holocaust to stop something like it from happening again, and 85% said they would say or do something if they heard negative comments or jokes about any religion, other races or ethnicities, according to the museum.