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'Shining a Light on Anti-Semitism': Greater Cleveland's Jewish community using Hanukkah season to raise awareness about hate crimes

The FBI’s Anti-Defamation League’s latest report showed a 55% increase in antisemitism hate crimes from 2019 to 2020.

BEACHWOOD, Ohio — The eight days of Hanukkah began Sunday and Greater Cleveland’s Jewish community is using the season to ‘Shine A Light’ not only on the celebration and its meaning, but also on putting an end to antisemitism.

A ‘Shine a Light on Antisemitism’ lighting event on Monday evening brought together dozens at the Jewish Federation of Cleveland Headquarters in Beachwood.

As children sang around a menorah, a second flame flickers on day two of Hanukkah.

“It's been a really hard year for everyone on all different fronts,” Rachel Uram said.

Support from both the Jewish community and others alike gathered around a podium for more than just a blessing, but also a message.

“I for sure focus on the good, but I also think that having something happen to me,” Uram said.

A moment of trauma for Uram is deeply ingrained in her memory. It happened while she was in Santa Monica with her family two years ago.

“We heard a man yelling 'Jew, Jew, Jew,’ from behind us,” Uram said in a speech during the ceremony. “All at once, he was directly in front of us, with his arm up in the heil Hitler salute. He then spit at us.”

The ceremony was another opportunity to brings awareness this holiday season.

“This year does feel a little bit different, just in light of the increase in antisemitism in this country,” Rabbi Avery Joel said. (You can watch his remarks below)

The FBI’s Anti-Defamation League’s latest report showed a 55% increase in antisemitism hate crimes from 2019 to 2020.

“Anti-Semitism exists in polite conversation and is more dangerous an insidious now more than ever,” Campaign Chair for the Federation, Bradley Sherman said.

 “[We] are saying, we're not okay with this. we're not okay with religious persecution of anybody we'll stand together," Joel said.

The light that radiates from each candle on the Menorah is the light the Jewish community says they want to shine on the hatred, recognizing it's not okay.

“Our Jewish community is here for good,” Sherman said.

“I want a better world for my children,” Uram said.

Sherman mentioned during his speech, a lot of antisemitism happens in "polite conversation,’ often times using words that people don't know or realize are anti-Semitic.

For a list of antisemitic words the American Jewish Committee says are linked to a “hate glossary,” click here.

You can watch the menorah lighting ceremony below:

RELATED: Yes, Hanukkah is considered a minor Jewish holiday

RELATED: Destination Cleveland unveils “18 Ways to Welcome the Winter Holiday Season in Cleveland”

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