“We have been playing defense. You can’t win a war with defense, you have to have offense” proclaimed Elon Carr, the US Envoy for fighting antisemitism at the Fighting Antisemitism With Love event at the San Diego State University. The event was put on by the SDSU and UCSD Hillel and it drew hundreds of Jews and non Jews to the SDSU Open Air Theater with the main headliner, the Israeli mentalist Lior Suchard performance following presentations by speakers including Congress woman Sara Jacobs, San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria and the head of San Diego Hillel Karen Perry.
For two hours, hundreds of San Diego residents listened to students describe and define antisemitism, a video narrating the various types of antisemitism they felt and then impassioned speeches on the state of Jewish hate in America and the necessity for all to face it and fight it, with compassion, facts and love.
Some of the biggest cheers came towards the San Diego State Chabad Rabbi Chalom Boudjnah, who has has created a home for Jews of San Diego State University where they felt safe to explore and exhibit their culture, history and religion without judgement or pressure.
The speech by Elon Carr mentioned the many firsts that occurred on the campus of San Diego State University, such as the adoption of IHRA definition of antisemitism, as well as a celebration of the Jewish Heritage Month, something that very few Universities dare to celebrate in a climate where being Jewish has become synonymous with Zionism where even the term has been hijacked to mean colonialism rather than the original meaning of indigenous Jews returning to the land that was taken from them, first by the Roman and later by Arab empire, followed by Ottomans and the English.
Congresswoman Sara Jacobs spoke of her experience on the third day of her job, January 6th. She vividly described the scene of a black congresswoman holding her hand as the mob with shirts that said “Camp Auschwitz” stormed the Capitol. She also described the difficulty of working with those who support antisemitic groups and hold antisemitic stereotypes and the need for fighting and never staying silent.
She shared the stage with San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria who is the first openly gay and minority (Phillipino) mayor of San Diego. He described his grandfather’s trials to purchase a home in San Diego due to redlining and the difficulty of being accepted by the people around him. He finished with an empathic call to fight antisemitism and hatred with every ounce of our collective strength.
The final speaker before the appearance of Suchard was an ex-CIA operative Darrell Blocker. Blocker spoke of his journey to becoming Jewish, his work fighting terrorist and how in spite of that he felt unprepared when he was in the presence of an antisemite. His message was to reach out to antisemites through listening and dialogue, to not fight fire with fire that only entrenches the opponents, but to meet them through love and understanding.
It was a night of unity and hope, as San Diego antisemitism opponents came together in spite of the cold temperatures and bonded over a common cause of fighting antisemitism, and enjoying a master of reading minds.