By Mollie Mayfield
Can a billboard end antisemitism? No, but you are not a billboard. That is one of three messages drivers around the Dallas area will see on a billboard campaign launched by JewBelong in a partnership with Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas. JewBelong is a nonprofit group fighting antisemitism through a national outdoor campaign that includes traditional billboards as well as trucks with messages crisscrossing the US.
“In Dallas, the Jewish community is thriving. Yet even here, we are not spared from antisemitic attacks. The events of Colleyville, for example, show that we must remain vigilant and educate a new generation of allies. The Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas puts unparalleled efforts to combat antisemitism and stands against hatred and bigotry of all kinds,” said Igor Alterman, president and CEO of the Federation.
The Anti-Defamation League reported in April 2022 that it received more than 2,700 reports of assault, harassment and vandalism in the U.S. during 2021, the highest total since it began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. Over the last couple years, high-profile antisemitic incidents in Texas have included bomb threats, swastikas being drawn in public places and hostage situations.
“Antisemitism has become tolerated and normalized across the country,” said JewBelong co-founder Archie Gottesman. “The type of hate leveled against Jews followed by the deafening silence from supposedly good people should be abhorrent to anyone who stands for justice. You don’t have to be a historian to know that being quiet about hate doesn’t stop the haters, it emboldens them. We need to call out Jew hatred wherever we see it.”
The billboard campaign will also have messages such as “We’re just 75 years since the gas chambers. So, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn’t an overreaction,” and “Does your church need armed guards? ‘Cause our synagogue does.”
“I think it’s very appropriate to call it out as how it is,” stated Alterman. “This is a national campaign. JewBelong has been very active across the country. We are excited to partner with them and bring it to people’s attention. There was a choice with the messages of what will resonate with the community, and those were picked.”
When deciding where to place the antisemitism billboards, Alterman stated, “We worked with an ad agency to figure out where prime locations will be with the most amount of traffic. We want to make sure our message was condensed and not lost among thousands of other boards across town.”
Even though the billboards are new to the Metroplex, JewBelong was established in 2017 and started this campaign in 2021. Following the increase of antisemitism in the United States, JewBelong’s #EndJewHate awareness campaign has appeared in dozens of cities and states across the U.S. in major cities including Atlanta; New York; Philadelphia; Boston; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; and Miami as well as internationally in Toronto, Canada.
Gottesman created the nonprofit organization as a web-based platform promoting religious tolerance and support for the Jewish faith. She wanted to spark conversations and she is doing so with these attention-grabbing outdoor campaigns and billboards.
Before moving to Dallas, Alterman resided in Miami, where he originally saw the JewBelong billboard campaign being launched. After seeing their success in creating awareness of antisemitism, he knew this campaign needed to make its way to the Lone Star State.
“I wanted to shake things up. We have been advocating for the Jewish community for decades. Look at the context of what is happening. We are a year from Colleyville [synagogue hostage situation] and we continue to have challenges with antisemitism in general. You open the news and see something going on. There was an assault on a synagogue in Houston the other week. Unfortunately there are a lot of reasons to pay attention to this,” stated Alterman as to why this campaign is needed in the Dallas Metroplex.
In recent days, the Dallas Mavericks made a trade to receive Kyrie Irving from the Brooklyn Nets. In the fall, Irving promoted an antisemitic film on his Twitter account, which has 4.7 million followers, which did not sit right with much of the basketball and Jewish community.
“I do believe he [Irving] did apologize…but in general, it just shows you how the ongoing education and advocacy is necessary. We want to continue the conversation and show how communities can come together and combat antisemitism. We will be happy to invite those who may be disturbed by these billboards to be a part of the solution,” explained Alterman.
The billboards are planned to be up for one month.
As part of its efforts to foster community and understanding between all faiths of the Greater Dallas community, the Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council holds an Interfaith Seder each spring. This year’s installment, the JCRC’s ninth, will be held Wednesday, March 25. Rabbi Elana Zelony, of Congregation Beth Torah, and Reverend Dr. Frederick D. Haynes, III senior pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church will co-lead the seder, which will be held at Congregation Shearith Israel.
“Together, we fight ignorance, bring awareness and advocate for a safer place for future generations of Texans,” said Alterman.For more information or to register for the Interfaith Seder, visit, www.jewishdallas.org/seder
Dallas drivers can see the billboards in three places around town:
- While driving south on Central Expressway on the east side, south of Royal Lane
- While driving East on LBJ (635) about half a mile west of Hillcrest on south side of the freeway
- While driving south on the Dallas North Tollway south of Lovers Lane on the west side of the Tollway.
- Sandy Lake Road