Jared Huffman, U.S. House member from California's 2nd Congressional District, surrounded by other speakers and officials at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council's "Here I Am" event in Marin, March 23, 2022. (Photo/Twitter-@SFJCRC)
Jared Huffman, U.S. House member from California's 2nd Congressional District, surrounded by other speakers and officials at the San Francisco-based Jewish Community Relations Council's "Here I Am" event in Marin, March 23, 2022. (Photo/Twitter-@SFJCRC)

‘Here I Am’: Marin officials, residents gather to denounce antisemitism

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Standing before a crowd of elected officials and members of the Marin Jewish community, teenager Sofia Weinstein made a heartfelt plea.

“Our Jewish community will continue to survive like we always have, but we need support,” she said. “In order to address antisemitism, it can’t only be an effort by the Jewish community.”

The Terra Linda High School senior was the youngest speaker among a coalition of local elected officials and community leaders, convened by the Jewish Community Relations Council on Wednesday to affirm efforts in the county to stand against antisemitism. It was streamed live on Facebook.

A number of antisemitic incidents have occurred in Marin County over the past few years, including in the public schools. Most recently, flyers from a local antisemitic and white supremacist group were found in Tiburon, alarming residents.

“Antisemitism needs to be taken as seriously as other forms of oppression,” said JCRC CEO Tye Gregory. “Too often our conversation is left off the table in our schools, in our city halls. We need to make sure that this is taken seriously.”

Concerning the flyers, dropped by supporters of the antisemitic outift Goyim TV, Marin County District Attorney Lori Frugoli said that even if they don’t meet the technical definition of a hate crime (as opposed to a hate incident), her office is paying close attention.

“We cannot prosecute those cases, but it doesn’t mean we don’t want you to report them,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to look at them and see if on some level, at some point, they might become a crime.”

She also discussed the recently introduced California Assembly bill 2282, which would change and expand hate crime laws by meting out the same punishment for using different “terror symbols,” such as swastikas, nooses and burning crosses. The bill was prompted after an incident in Fairfax in November 2020 when a 19-year-old was caught posting swastika stickers on public lampposts, trash cans and other fixtures.

Angered that hate crime charges couldn’t be filed because the stickers were placed on public property, several residents organized as NOAH Marin (Name, Oppose and Abolish Hate Marin) and helped come up with legislation addressing holes in the state’s hate crime laws.

“Now [AB 2282] is going to be heard next week. That’s pretty amazing,” Frugoli said. “And so don’t ever think that the power of showing up doesn’t make a difference.”

This is the third such event JCRC has organized with local municipalities as part of its “Here I Am” campaign to raise public awareness of antisemitism. Previous events were held in San Francisco and Oakland, and Gregory said there are plans to bring the conversation to San Mateo, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Sonoma and Napa counties.

Also speaking at the event was Assemblymember Marc Levine, who represents parts of Marin and Sonoma counties and talked about how supporting Israel can make someone a target for antisemitism.

“It has to be called out,” he said. “This is happening to Jews everywhere, particularly our young Jews in high schools and colleges.”

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) also addressed the audience, as did the  Jewish Community Federation’s Joy Sisisky, San Rafael Mayor Kate Colin, head of the Marin Community Foundation Rhea Suh, deputy superintendent of the Marin County Office of Education Ken Lippi, and members of clergy from Kol Shofar and Rodef Sholom (which hosted the event) and other Bay Area Jewish leaders. 

Representatives from the city governments and police departments of San Rafael, Novato, Larkspur, Sausalito, San Anselmo, Corte Madera, Tiburon, Fairfax and Ross attended, as did a host of other officials and groups from around Marin County.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

Maya Mirsky is a J. Staff Writer based in Oakland.