There’s a holiday or day to observe just about anything and everything. According to a website that tracks observances, Saturday is evidently National Chocolate Covered Nuts Day and International Sword Swallowers Day.
White supremacists and neo-Nazis are trying to make Saturday into something sinister: the “National Day of Hate.”
Dan Goldwin, with the Jewish United Fund and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, is not surprised this is coming on a Saturday.
“For most Jews, it’s Shabbat,” Goldwin said. “It’s a day of going to shul, going to synagogue for services for bar and bat mitzvahs. It’s a nice day. Unfortunately, some neo-Nazis have also decided to call it a ‘National Day of Hate.’ So it’s put our community on edge.”
What exactly that will translate to in real terms remains to be seen. Online plans call for actions like hanging flyers and banners that espouse antisemitic beliefs, harassment, graffiti, vandalism — really “tried and true activities of white supremacist groups that we deal with every day. Literally every single day,” said David Goldenberg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Midwest.
Goldenberg said the ADL is working with law enforcement.
Illinois State Police sent a tweet Thursday asking the public to be vigilant and urged heightened awareness.
The ISP on Friday said it had no additional information but stressed that there is no specific threat and that the force is monitoring the situation.
It’s a similar situation for the Chicago Police Department. In response to questions from WTTW News, the CPD’s News Affairs team sent an email Friday reading “at this time, there is no actionable intelligence and we continue to actively monitor the situation.”
Members of the public are encouraged to follow the adage: If you see something, say something.
Goldwin said the primary goal is safety.
“In most cases, it’s exercising really horrific free speech, but it is free speech,” Goldwin said. “So it’s more saying: If people have gone that step beyond free speech, make sure you’re reporting it to police.”
He said law enforcement agencies, including the Cook County State’s Attorney’s office, are taking the potential threat “very seriously.”
Goldenberg encouraged people not to engage with harassers. He also said the best choice is to contact police. People can also contact the ADL, which will follow up.
Both Goldwin and Goldenberg said that giving attention to the day is a double-edged sword because it means more attention to rhetoric that spews hate.
But in 2023, this sort of activity isn’t underground anymore, Goldenberg said.
Hate crimes are up. The ADL reported 160 occurrences of white supremacist incidents, propaganda and events in 2022, a 67% increase from the year before.
“We absolutely think that the political environment right now and the loss of sort of civil discourse have contributed to the increase,” Goldenberg said. “We also know that hate has spread and misinformation has spread and conspiracies have spread through the internet. We’ve seen it during elections, we’ve seen it play out in schools and we see it play out in neighborhoods. You don’t have to find a meeting in the middle of the night anymore to be exposed to these extremist ideologies.”
He said that by dubbing Saturday a “Day of Hate” — using a word that is so intense and visceral — white supremacists may have erred.
“When you look at hate and love, there’s no more stark contrast between the two,” Goldenberg said. “So for those of us who are looking for something to latch onto, to push back against this type of hate, take this as an opportunity. Take this as an opportunity to speak out and say ‘You know what, I reject hate. And I’m going to do what I can in my day-to-day life to speak out against it, to speak out against misinformation with facts, and to show strength when people are attacked even if it has nothing to do with me or my community.’”
Goldenberg said the ADL is calling for a shabbat of “peace and love” Saturday and is working to educate students and others on that mindset beyond this weekend.
Goldwin, for his part, plans to go about his Saturday worship, as normal. He encouraged others to do the same, but with an extra dose of diligence.
Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @AmandaVinicky