UPDATE: Montana Mobilizing to Stop Hate
|Har Shalom Synagogue was packed with residents of Missoula who congregated to hear messages of love in the wake of hate. (Tom Bauer/Missoulian).|
In the past week, anti-Semitic incidents have rocked two Montana towns and people there are starting to take action. Now white nationalists say they are planning an armed march through the town of Whitefish, MT.
This is a sign of the dangerous times. It starts with hate speech, threats and fear. And if we don’t stand up now, the fear will spread, and white supremacists will be emboldened. What we have learned from the Not In Our Town movement is that with practice, we can defeat hate by working together in our local communities. Joint action is needed more than ever.
Love Lives Here,” a community organization in Northwest Montana focused on tolerance and unity, garnered the attention of hate groups trying to target local Jewish leaders.
White supremacists are now feeling emboldened to spew ugly words and commit terrible acts of hatred. The language and personal targeting in Whitefish in particular are stunning. White nationalist Richard Spencer, who boasted that the election of Donald Trump put his views in the mainstream, lives part-time in the area and so do his parents. Claiming that there was a “Jewish agenda” against Spencer’s family, a white supremacist website called the Daily Stormer suggested that white nationalists target local Jewish leaders and a pro inclusion community group called Love Lives Here. The ugliness of the post is reminiscent of early Nazi propaganda, when dehumanization coupled with fear and threats proved to be horrifically effective. (We urge you not to seek out the original post on the Daily Stormer. Coverage of the post and the thwarted plans to hold an armed rally against Jewish people in Whitefish can be found on the Missoulian.)
The targeting of Jewish residents in Whitefish was a wake up call to the larger Flathead Valley. Community members got together and started a holiday “basket drive” to support their Jewish neighbors. The Daily Inter Lake, the daily newspaper in the region, posted an editorial Stand With Your Neighbors and referenced Not In Our Town:
“In another Montana city more than 20 years ago, a similar virulent hatred surfaced unexpectedly, and led the city of Billings to unite and to say “Not In Our Town” to anti-semitism, racism, hatred and violence. The citizens then were encouraged to post a paper menorah in their windows to stand in solidarity with the Jewish people who were being harassed. We invite all residents of Whitefish and the Flathead Valley who value diversity, freedom and tolerance to do the same thing. The menorah, a nine-branched candelabrum, is associated with the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, and its symbol of bringing light out of darkness gives it a universal appeal.”
What You Can Do Right Now
|To download this image of a menorah to show your support of Jewish residents in Montana, click here.|
Download the above menorah, symbolizing solidarity with the Jews of Montana, or another image of a menorah. Place it in your window and share it on social media. You could include words like these: I stand with the Jewish families of Montana, and all who are targets of hate.
Send a letter of support to the Jewish community in Montana Glacier Jewish Community - B'nai Shalom, 591 Hilltop Court, Whitefish, MT 59937.and Love Lives Here PO Box 204, Whitefish, Montana 59938-0204
Post a message of support on Love Lives Here's Facebook page.
Screen a Not In Our Town film in your community and launch a campaign to prevent hate in your town. Here's how.
MISSOULA: Ready to Stand Up
|Montana Governor Steve Bullock spoke out against the hate incidents in Missoula.|
Missoula, Montana is a larger city, and so as news surfaced of local hate incidents, people were ready. Hundreds gathered at the Har Shalom Synagogue where spiritual leader Laurie Franklin asked everyone to keep a lighted menorah in their window during Hanukkah. Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a supporter of Not In Our Town, made a powerful statement, saying, “Let me be very clear, there is no time nor place for hate in Montana.”
Are you ready to respond to hate in your community? In our next post we will outline the general principles of taking action in the face of hate.