New VA Task Force Zeroes in on Antisemitism, Aims to Crack Down and Educate
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Jewish community faces a greater rise in hate than any other religious group in the U.S. With that in mind, Virginia officials are taking the lead in growing efforts to fight antisemitism.
"If you come in and decide to commit acts of violence or violate anyone's civil rights, you're gonna be hearing from the Office of the Attorney General in Virginia very shortly," state Attorney General Jason Miyares told CBN News.
Earlier this month, his office announced the creation of a new task force to monitor and combat antisemitism.
"We want the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. So it's both monitoring, it's informing, and we have a civil rights division here in the AG's office if need be, bringing cases as well. So I think it's a critical component, bringing those both in the law enforcement, security, and education background on one page. They can get a clearer picture of the depths of the problem that we're seeing right now in Virginia, and we're obviously seeing this nationally as well," Miyares said.
A 2021 report by the Anti-Defamation League found that antisemitic incidents, including assaults, harassment, and vandalism, hit an all-time high. Virginia experienced a 70 percent increase in the hate crime.
"I think we're still dealing with the aftershocks of what happened in Charlottesville in 2017 where you saw the antisemitic bigots walking through town, shouting antisemitic slurs. And I think candidly, getting through COVID, you know, we're at this inflection point in America where 50% of Americans don't even know the name of their neighbor," Miyares said.
Samuel Asher, executive director and president of the Virginia Holocaust Museum, sees ignorance as one of the main factors behind many incidents.
"There was a study a couple of years ago by the Schoen Foundation, and it found that if you had been to a Holocaust Museum, if you studied about the Holocaust, you are far less likely to be involved in hate groups, white supremacist groups, etc. They also found the reverse, if you had no understanding of the Holocaust, then you are possibly going to be recruited by white supremacists, KKK, etc.," Asher told CBN News.
He and his staff regularly bring in teachers from all over the state and provide tools to help them accurately teach students about Hitler's "final solution" aimed at eradicating the Jewish people. With education as a top priority of the new task force, the museum will also be hosting members of Virginia law enforcement.
"The best way to fight bad information is with good information. So it's a lot of it's educating, a lot of us making sure our state police officers go and they spend the day when they're at the police academy going to the Holocaust Museum, because so many young police officers, they're just not familiar with it. And maybe that's an indictment on our, you know, our history standards in our public schools," Miyares said.
A 50-state survey on Holocaust knowledge among Millennials and Gen-Z found that 63% didn't know the Holocaust led to the murder of 6 million Jews. While 48% couldn't name a single concentration camp.
"My family lost 75 members. They came from Plock, Poland, which is a little town outside of Warsaw, and they were sent to the camps and they're not here now. So I can testify. They're not here, and they're not here because they were killed in the Germans' mechanized killing machine, and we cannot ever let that happen again," said Asher.
Members of the new Virginia task force are still being chosen, but Miyares tells CBN News he's seeking a mix of public officials and private citizens.
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