By Rachel Fayne Gruskin
More than 40 members of the Atlanta Jewish community rallied Wednesday night, Nov. 30, in solidarity with groups around the nation to demand that President-Elect Donald Trump fire adviser Steve Bannon.
The gathering at the Philip Rush Center in Atlanta drew a literal line of candlelight to reject what protesters have called the normalization of hate speech.
“Never in my life have I felt that everyone has the ability to make connections so that hate does not grow,” SOJOURN Executive Director Rebecca Stapel-Wax said. “And when I think about my children, I realize we can’t normalize this fear of each other.”
Echoing protests in 25 other cities, the rally was sponsored by IfNotNow, an organization young Jews formed in response to the 2014 war in Gaza. While IfNotNow usually focuses on eliminating the Israeli presence in the West Bank, the #JewishResistance effort Nov. 30 protested “the normalization of Islamophobia, homophobia, racism and white supremacy in the White House.”
The Atlanta rally featured acoustic music and protest songs led by Sunmoon Pie, and speakers encouraged the Jewish community to band together to combat hate speech.
Mothers and fathers accompanied by young children held signs that called for unity, for love of strangers and for the ouster of Bannon, whom speaker Amy Jaret said is the central figure in “a Cabinet of extremists and racists” being assembled by Trump.
Attendees drew the line against Bannon, who ran Breitbart.com before running Trump’s campaign and has been tapped to serve as a senior adviser in the new administration. Each person at the rally lighted a small candle, then placed it in a line of flames that extended well past the crowd.
Although the election ended more than three weeks ago, the general feeling among the protesters was that the American people don’t ever stop voting, and their voices are only beginning to be heard.
Leah Fuhr, a volunteer organizer for IfNotNow, emphasized the need for courage among the like-minded populace. She and others, including Congregation Bet Haverim Rabbi Joshua Lesser, not only called on the Jewish organizational establishment to resist the appointment of Bannon, but also urged all groups that feel marginalized within the political arena to join in protest.
Jaret said members of the Jewish community must be concerned with more than anti-Semitism. “We call on our cultural heritage, which teaches us that when they come for one, we all rise together. We are here today to draw the line. We will bridge friendships. We will build bridges.”