December 26, 2022
By The Seattle Times editorial board
After the Bellevue City Council passed a proclamation defining and confronting antisemitism, other jurisdictions followed suit with similar denunciations. More cities and counties are expected to join them.
These legislative actions are a welcome and much-needed response to anti-Jewish hate. At a time when antisemitism has grown bolder and more prevalent across the nation, local communities can take meaningful steps to educate, illuminate and affirm human rights.
In October, Bellevue became the first city in the Pacific Northwest to adopt an internationally recognized definition of antisemitism to fight anti-Jewish words and actions.
The proclamation, spearheaded by the American Jewish Committee, says: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Bellevue uses this definition to respond and provide training and education.
Soon after Bellevue’s action was highlighted by this editorial board, other cities expressed interest in doing their own version, said Regina Sassoon Friedland, regional director in Seattle of the American Jewish Committee, an advocacy organization.
The Snohomish County Council adopted a proclamation signed on Dec. 1 by Executive Dave Somers. It reaffirmed “Snohomish County’s condemnation of antisemitism as supporters and allies of our Jewish community.”
On Dec. 14, the City of Mill Creek passed a similar proclamation. “Unfortunately, we find ourselves in a time where hate speech and antisemitism is on the rise and I strongly felt this moment calls for us to stand up and make a strong statement that we will not tolerate antisemitism in our community,” said Mayor Pro Tem Stephanie Vignal, according to the Lynnwood Times.
After consulting with leaders at Temple Beth El and the local Jewish community, the Tacoma City Council adopted a resolution brought forward by Council Member Sarah Rumbaugh. It passed on Dec. 20.
“Adopting this definition at the City of Tacoma shows our community that their public institutions are committed to addressing antisemitism and creating a welcoming environment for people of all faiths and backgrounds, including our Jewish community,” said Rumbaugh. “We will not stand silent in the face of hatred and oppression.”
On Jan. 24, the Metropolitan King County Council is set to consider a proclamation on antisemitism, led by Councilmember Reagan Dunn.
Other local governments are poised to pass their own versions, said Friedland.
“We’re thrilled at the proactive positivity, all the reach outs that we’ve received,” said Friedland. “We often focus on so many of the negatives and this has been a really positive experience. I think it is important to really highlight that because there are a lot of good people who want to remedy the situation and try to make sure things get better.”
At a time when local synagogues are adding security and training congregants how to stem gunshot wounds, the actions of these council members comfort and inspire.
They may seem small and symbolic, but these proclamations amount to a bulwark against hate and violence and offer a tangible expression of profoundly needed unity.