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- Michael Balaban
President & CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia


From Bryn Mawr Film Institute’s attempt to cancel the screening of an Israeli film under the guise of neutrality to Wednesday’s act of gun violence that erupted near The Philadelphia Masjid during an Eid al-Fitr celebration, this past week has been a particularly difficult one for the Greater Philadelphia community. 


As these local incidents continue to occur and worldwide antisemitism keeps spiking, there has been one Jewish teaching that has been on my mind: Rabbi Hillel’s famous words of “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I?”


The values of allyship and solidarity during these threatening times cannot be overstated. We must rely on our global Jewish community, and on our allies from other faith groups and identities. Later today, I’ll be sitting at a bar with a group of priests and rabbis, talking about the current state of the world and how we can lean on each other. These one-to-one connections make a world of difference as we face the days ahead.


We have already seen so many uplifting moments of unity since Oct. 7 – moments that give me hope and faith in the community we have built here. Last Sunday, on the six month mark of the war, our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) cosponsored a town hall meeting about community safety with the Philadelphia Police Commissioner Keven Bethel. To see members of our local police force, city council, and other government officials and community leaders come together to share resources for combating antisemitism was incredibly heartening.


It is the same feeling I get when I see the work that our JCRC is doing with the New Golden Age initiative, a collaboration with Culture Changing Christians (CCC) to strengthen Black-Jewish relations in Greater Philadelphia. Since Oct. 7, Pastor Carl Day of CCC has been vocal about his support of the Jewish community and the need for Hamas to return the hostages, and I am thankful for his advocacy.


But solidarity is not always easy. It often puts us in a position to feel uncomfortable, ignorant or uninformed. I am grateful for all of those who push past that discomfort and the influx of disinformation to stand for what is right and what is true.


It is with this acknowledgement that I encourage all in our community to delve deeper into the misconceptions and stereotypes that allow antisemitism to promulgate. On May 1, the Jewish Federation will be hosting the Philadelphia launch event of Israeli activist Noa Tishby and former Eagles linebacker Emmanuel Acho’s new book, “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Jew." I hope you will join me at this event to see firsthand the power of allyship in action.



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