By Kenny Goldberg
This weekend, Jewish communities across Texas and around the world will celebrate the start of a new year in the Jewish calendar. This is a season to pause, reflect on what we’ve accomplished and endured and think about how to improve our lives and relationships.
As chairman of the Texas Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission, I’ve seen firsthand that our Texas communities — also like those around the world — have endured growing levels of hate these past few years: An Austin synagogue set on fire in 2021; a Colleyville rabbi and his congregants held hostage during religious services in 2022; Southlake police officers fired this summer for drawing swastikas and sending the images to residents.
But amid this darkness, we’ve also seen a ray of light that our local communities should celebrate and expand as we enter the new year. That light has come from elected officials from all regions, backgrounds — and even political parties — working together to call out this recent scourge of antisemitism and fight against it.
At its core, antisemitism is the hatred, hostility, distrust, alienation and oppression of Jewish people and groups just because they are Jewish. It has existed for more than 2,000 years and has manifested throughout history and in current times through ugly beliefs and hostile behavior.
For centuries, laws, rules and courts have been used to codify antisemitism and oppress Jewish residents. That’s why it’s so heartening to see leaders using public policy to counter antisemitism and support Jewish residents.
Of course, public policy alone will not eradicate this generations-old disease. But it’s an essential starting point to raise awareness and generate support. This is especially true in our state, where Jews make up less than 1% of the population and many Texans are unaware of the discrimination, hate and “othering” we face every day.
On the local level, the El Paso and Dallas city councils have adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism as an educational resource for public safety agencies and city departments that address discrimination.
Members of Texas’ congressional delegation have also supported legislation to combat antisemitism and joined Israel’s president when he addressed these issues at a joint session of Congress this summer.
I am particularly encouraged by the decisive steps state leaders took this year at the recommendation of our commission. With broad bipartisan support, lawmakers and Gov. Greg Abbott:
Established a $2 million grant program for religious organizations, schools and community centers to harden their security infrastructures. This will complement an existing federal program so Jewish organizations and other groups are better prepared for attacks like the ones we have seen in the past few years.
Prohibited public colleges or universities in Texas from implementing boycotts of study abroad or research programs in Israel or other nations. This ban counters a global anti-Israel movement, often fueled by antisemitism, that has taken root on campuses nationally.
Launched a statewide survey of K-12 educators on the impact and effectiveness of Holocaust Remembrance Week, which occurs in public schools each January, and ways to improve the curriculum and programming.
These steps help fight antisemitism and empower us to apply the lessons from them to combat many different forms of hate across Texas.
They also give us hope at the start of a Jewish new year that the ray of light we have begun to see in Texas can shine brighter in all corners of the state.
Kenny Goldberg, of Dallas, is chairman of the Texas Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Commission.