Holding Antisemites Accountable.

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Men Wearing Antisemitic Shirts at Lehigh Valley Holiday Festival Cause Outrage

Various Jewish groups and ArtsQuest have condemned the antisemitic hate speech and conspiracy theories they say were uttered and displayed Sunday at Christkindlmarkt on Bethlehem’s Southside. The holiday market is run by ArtsQuest.

The Jewish advocacy group that fights antisemitism – StopAntisemitism – tweeted about the shirts, stating the hatred should be condemned by all.

“At least four people” were seen wearing T-shirts that said, “It’s Okay to be White. Less than 1% of White US Households Owned Slaves but Every Slave Ship & Auction was Owned by Jews”, the Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation said in a letter to its members. The people also said Jews were responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks as well as slavery, the letter said. The people as well said Jews “run and own everything,” the letter states.

The Anti-Defamation League says the “It’s OK to be White” slogan has been popular for some time with white supremacists, the letter states.

“To be clear, hatred has no place in our diverse community, nor is it welcome in our beloved Christmas City, or at any ArtsQuest sponsored event,” the organization said Sunday night in a prepared statement, adding it had been “made aware” earlier Sunday of reports about the incident. “Bethlehem was founded on the principle of religious freedom, and we support that freedom for everyone, including our friends in the Jewish community. Hatred must be called out when we witness it, especially on this, the first day of Hanukkah.

“We are encouraged by the amount of people who recognize the importance of our diversity and celebrate it.”

The ArtsQuest release points the blame on a single “patron.”

The president of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley spoke with the president of the ArtsQuest board of directors a well as the ArtsQuest CEO/president within an hour of being notified of the incident, the letter states.

ArtsQuest President Kassie Hilgert also talked to Aaron Gorodzinsky, the federation’s director of campaign and security planning, “to convey her support for the Jewish community and ArtsQuest’s clear position against antisemitism,” the letter says.

In addition to releasing its statement, “as a result of this occurrence, ArtsQuest is reviewing its policies to prepare for any similar circumstances that may arise in the future”, the letter states.

The federation salutes the mayors of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton for having signed proclamations against antisemitism, the letter states.

“Despite this incident, we should be mindful of the wonderful support we have received and are continuing to receive from the non-Jewish community across the Lehigh Valley in response to increasing antisemitism,” the letter says.

While it appears no action was taken by ArtsQuest during the incident, the federation added, “Events like this one are alarming, but we are prepared to respond to antisemitism wherever it arises. We began our “Shine a Light” campaign specifically for this purpose, and we appreciate your support as we continue to partner with organizations and leaders within and outside our community on this important mission.”