The Anti-Defamation League is encouraging Philadelphians to take a step in the right direction.
Those steps will lead from the Marine Parade Grounds and loop around to the Navy Yard on May 21 for the ADL’s seventh-annual Walk Against Hate.
Dan Keefer, the local associate director of development for the ADL, said that the location, which was first used at last year’s walk, is more accommodating to the crowds expected for the event. For the first five years, the walk occurred along Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, he said, but quickly grew to the point that it needed a larger space.
The walk was initially conceived and implemented in Philadelphia, but has since spread to other ADL locations, such as Las Vegas, which boasted an attendance of more than 800 people last month. At the Navy Yard, Keefer estimated, more than 2,000 — both Jews and non-Jews — will participate.
“That’s what’s neat about it. It’s many different groups — religious, ethnic, social, economic, absolutely everything,” he said. “We have schools, temples, churches, mosques, everyone. And also, of course, our business partner community.”
The walk intends to raise $500,000 — as of press time, the event’s website indicated a hefty $382,945 pledged — to support the ADL’s work in schools, like its No Place For Hate initiative, and with law enforcement.
“Every Philadelphia Police Department recruit since 2008 has been to the Holocaust Museum down in D.C.,” Keefer noted. “We also train [officers] in anti-bias initiatives.”
Beginning at 9 a.m., the two-mile walk will also be surrounded by multicultural entertainment, food, family-friendly activities and a diversity expo, where participants will showcase more than 30 nonprofits that share ADL’s mission and represent a broad spectrum of religious, racial and ethnic backgrounds, Keefer said.
“We just like to promote other organizations that share our values,” he said.
This year’s diversity expo will include participants from the American Jewish Committee, Al-Aqsa Youth Club, Bhutanese American Organization, Black Women in Sport Foundation and many others.
Additionally, attendees will be able to enjoy performances by local dance troupes and bands — musical artists Airways and BriaMarie, as well as actor Matt Barr will make appearances — or partake in face paintings and carnival games for children.
(Last year, Philadelphia native Bryshere Y. Gray, also known as Yazz The Greatest and actor on the popular Fox show Empire, stopped by to perform.)
Keefer said the event is significant for the community at large.
“It shows ADL’s mission isn’t just to fight anti-Semitism — though that is half of our mission — but we’re also dedicated to curing injustice and fair treatment to all,” he said. “We advocate on behalf of all people.”
Nancy Baron-Baer, ADL regional director, added that “people are yearning for the opportunity to come together to do good things together” in light of hateful incidents and crimes perpetrated against Jewish community institutions and other minority groups.
The ADL released its annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” last month, which found that anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. increased more than one-third in 2016. The audit also recorded 86 percent more incidents to date in 2017 over the previous year.
The first quarter of 2017 saw 541 preliminary reports of anti-Semitic incidents, which includes harassment, bomb threats, vandalism (including cemetery desecrations) and physical assaults.
Within Pennsylvania, investigators recorded 54 percent more incidents in 2016 than in 2015.
According to the regional director, the ADL received more than 300 requests for assistance in 2016 based on bias incidents and discrimination — a 35 percent increase over 2015. This year looks to be on track to exceed 2016’s numbers.
“That’s a reason for all of us to come out and stand up to hate,” Baron-Baer emphasized.
“Here is an opportunity for all of us in the Jewish community and the community beyond to stand up together and walk against hate,” she continued. But, “we hope that this provides the community with an opportunity to [also] gather together to celebrate. We certainly gathered together as a community in the aftermath of the cemetery desecration. But this is an opportunity to enjoy each other’s company and to learn from one another — and isn’t that what America stands for?”
Baron-Baer said that the walk’s popularity and attendance has grown because of increased interest due to the divisiveness that is present in the nation today. People from all over have had enough, she said.
“People want to be engaged,” she explained. “People want to do something good each and every time they see or read about another act of hate.”
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