Governor Gavin Newsom talks with Holocaust survivor Martha Sternbach at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. (Photo/Courtesy Newsom's office)
Governor Gavin Newsom talks with Holocaust survivor Martha Sternbach at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles. (Photo/Courtesy Newsom's office)

Gov. Newsom makes his first proclamation of Jewish heritage month, touts antisemitism measures

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Gov. Gavin Newsom has issued a proclamation declaring May as Jewish American Heritage Month in California.

It’s the first time he’s done so since becoming governor in 2019, his press office confirmed.

Amid language offering support and plaudits for Jewish contributions to California, he made a point of mentioning antisemitism and the state’s measures to combat it.

“As we celebrate these accomplishments, we must also recognize the bigotry and violence that Jews have faced throughout history, and that shamefully persist to this day,” the May 6 proclamation said.

The document notes the work of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus in pushing through security grants that help synagogues and other Jewish institutions pay for features like cameras and fences and for training on how to respond to an active shooter.

The proclamation also mentions the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education, which was set up in October 2021 to create guidelines on how best to teach about genocide in schools. The council met for the first time in March.

“We have enlisted leading experts to steer our Commission on the State of Hate and the Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education — an important tool to combat the shocking decline in awareness among young people about the horrors of the Holocaust,” the proclamation said.

Last week, the governor visited the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles where he met Auschwitz survivor Martha Sternbach.

At the local level, the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area has been calling on cities to pass resolutions supporting May as Jewish American Heritage Month. According to JCRC, currently 35 school districts and cities have done so, including the cities of Alameda, Berkeley, Menlo Park, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, Sunnyvale and Tiburon.

“Again this year, local cities and school districts have responded very positively to our call to support Jewish American Heritage Month,” Karen Stiller, senior director of Jewish affairs for JCRC, said in an email to J. “It’s thrilling to see them uplifting their Jewish communities, especially during time of rising antisemitism and hate.”

The governor also put in a plug for the state’s new website and hotline for reporting hate incidents, which was launched May 4. People can report non-emergency hate incidents or hate crimes through the “CA vs. Hate” website or by calling 833-8-NO-HATE.

Not only can the website and hotline be used to report hate crimes, which are defined as violations of the criminal code with a specific motivation of bias against a group, but they can also be used for reporting “hate acts” that don’t rise to the level of a crime, including “derogatory name calling, bullying, hate mail and refusing service.”

Hate crimes won’t be automatically reported to the police but can be reported upon request. According to the website, anyone who makes a report will be connected with a “professional trained in culturally competent communication and trauma-informed practices.”

Nationally, President George W. Bush established Jewish American Heritage Month back in 2006. Since then, every president has also proclaimed May as the month to celebrate Jewish American heritage.

Maya Mirsky
Maya Mirsky

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