Ohio leaders and Jewish groups are speaking out against anti-Semitism after photographs from an April 18 stay-at-home order protest outside the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus showed a man holding an anti-Semitic sign.
State Rep. Casey Weinstein, D-Hudson, posted one of the images and spoke out against it on Twitter, while another photo showed a protester holding the same sign out the window of a minivan.
The sign showed a rat depicted with a Star of David and yarmulke, and read “the real plague.”
James Pasch, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League in Cleveland, condemned the act.
“There is no place for anti-Semitism or hate anywhere," Pasch told the Columbus Jewish News. "This is protest about a stay at home order and we have seen now a trend across this country of right-wing extremists using these protest rallies to spread their messages of hate. And we must continue to call it out and speak out against it whenever and wherever we see it.”
Weinstein wrote on Twitter, “I served in the military to defend their right to sling this #Antisemitism and hatred. And for MY RIGHT to call it out for what it is and stand strong against it. #notonmywatch.”
By the afternoon of April 20, one of his tweets was retweeted over 1,000 times, and the numbers were growing.
“They need to be exposed,” Weinstein told the CJN. “They need to be called out and, to the extent that the organizers of these groups are promoting hatred, I’m going to call them out too.”
Weinstein and his wife, Amanda, both served in the U.S. Air Force to support free speech, he said, and he condemned the hate speech implied by the protester’s sign and garb.
“There’s a long history of Jews being blamed for plague, for disease, being scapegoated for problems like this ... and it’s not happening – not here, not now, not today not ever while I’m around,” he said. “Our people have learned the lessons of what complacency could look like in the past or allowing hatred to percolate. ... or allowing it to become mainstream. It can never become mainstream. It requires a strong response.”
The Anti-Defamation League Cleveland Region wrote on Twitter the sign comes in a long history of prejudice in the form of blaming Jews for plagues, this time for COVID-19.
“Anti-Semitism has no place in our society and we will continue to call it out in all its forms,” the group wrote on Twitter.
The Jewish Community Relations Committee of JewishColumbus said on Facebook, “Thank you Rep. Casey Weinstein for forcefully speaking out against this disgusting display of anti-Semitism during yesterday’s protests at the Ohio Statehouse. Too often Jews have been used as scapegoats to spread false conspiracies. We will not allow that to happen again. Hate has no place here in Ohio or anywhere.”
Weinstein said he was proud of the Jewish community for stepping up to condemn such acts. He has been personally targeted with anti-Semitic notes at his home in January 2020 and in November 2018.
Rabbi Areyah Kaltmann of Chabad Columbus in New Albany also released a statement, reflecting that the incident occurred just before Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day. His father’s parents died in the Holocaust.
“As we start Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, I grieve not only for my grandparents and 6 million murdered Jews, but also for those in our society who think the Holocaust has no relevance today,” Kaltmann said in the statement. “The image of a protester carrying an anti-Semitic placard at a rally in front of the Statehouse yesterday is ugly, grotesque proof that we still have lessons to learn from the unreasoned hatred of the Holocaust.
We live in an unprecedented time when the world can and must band together. We’re fighting a war unlike any other the world has known. Nations at war band together within themselves to fight: “us” vs. “them.” Today there is no “us” and no “them.” For the first time, the entire world shares an unseen enemy, COVID-19, that has attacked us all. No one deserves to feel suffering and pain. This is a time to work together and help each other.”
Bexley Mayor Ben Kessler posted about the incident on Twitter:
My thoughts and my resolve are with Ohio’s Jewish community during a time when anti-semitism has reared its ugly and incomprehensible head in the midst of COVID-19 policy protests and political commentary. There’s no place for hate in our community, and it won’t be tolerated.— Ben Kessler (@BexleyMayor) April 23, 2020
Co-editor Amanda Koehn contributed to this report.