The Long Beach City Council voted Tuesday night to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism for the city. Every council member, and Acting City Manager Ron Walsh, voted to adopt.
The city adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which defines it by saying “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.”
“In New York State, Southampton, Rockville Centre, Yorktown, Greensburg, Huntington, Great Neck Suffolk County, Nassau County, North Hempstead, Oyster Bay, Glen Cove and Lindenhurst have all adopted a working definition for anti-Semitism,” Walsh said. “Anti-Semitism and hatred of all kinds, unfortunately, is a real thing.”
Long Beach has a sizable Jewish community to say the least. Walsh said one of his focuses when he came here was to try and make sure that the Jewish community had a voice. He said he felt not only that they were respected, but that when incidents of anti-Semitism took place, the city fully investigated them.
“In this day in age, it’s a little unfathomable to me that we have to vote on something like this,” City Council President John Bendo said. “In this day in age, anti-Semitism is still something we’re wrestling with. It says something about us as a society that it’s still an issue.”
Rabbi Jack Zanerhaft, the spiritual leader of Temple Emanu-El of Long Beach, spoke to the council, commending the city’s constant support of the Jewish community. Temple Emanu-El frequently holds inclusive events and Shabbats, including a Pride Month Shabbat last week.
“We’re grateful for that relationship and we’re grateful for this council’s response,” Zanerhaft said to a crowded room. “So much of this is focused on the Jewish community, but I wanted to remind all of us it’s not a Jewish problem. It’s not only a Jewish problem, but also a human problem. It’s both at the same time.”
Rabbi Isaac Attia, the director of Long Beach Jewish Experience, also spoke to the council before the adoption. He read a letter that he and other rabbis from the city wrote in support of the decision.
“We commend the city council’s commitment to standing with the American Jewish Committee and the Jewish community worldwide in the ongoing fight against anti-Semitism,” he said. “Anti-Semitism remains a persistent and deeply concerning issue not only locally, but also globally. The Long Beach City Council sends a powerful message of solidarity, reaffirming its dedication to combating hate and discrimination.”
Attia spoke for himself and the other local rabbis, saying they are proud to stand alongside the American Jewish Committee and the city council. He said they firmly believe that the adoption of this definition will not only protect Jewish individuals from hatred and bigotry but will also contribute to the promotion of diversity, harmony and mutual respect among all Long Beach residents.
Councilwoman Tina Posterli said “this is a very important step in combating hate and discrimination in all forms” before quickly voting yes. The rest of the council voted yes without question.