By Maria Maxham
The village of Forest Park has passed a resolution "confronting and combating antisemitism," which adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA)'s working definition of antisemitism.
The resolution doesn't change or create any new laws, and it shouldn't be construed to diminish or infringe upon freedom of speech; rather, it provides a "non-legally binding" definition of antisemitism, including contemporary examples, and it will be available as an "educational resource" for the police department and the entire village government.
At a Nov. 9 village council meeting, Mayor Rory Hoskins and the four commissioners voted unanimously to pass the resolution, which was brought to the village by Laurence Bolotin and Jason Rosensweig from the American Jewish Committee (AJC) of Chicago.
Both Bolotin and Rosensweig spoke at the Nov. 9 meeting, which was held over Zoom.
"During the current crisis, we have seen how people have been able to come together and really pull together," said Bolotin, who serves as the AJC executive director. "And we've also seen that times of fear and uncertainty unfortunately could bring out the worst in people as well."
Bolotin said there has been a rise in antisemitism in recent months as well as over the past few years, and he and Rosensweig wanted to present "how Forest Park can take a leading role in addressing this increasing and surprising trend."
Rosensweig explained that the resolution can be used to assist in determining whether a crime or incident might be seen as antisemitic.
"It's a tool that one could use to help decide and help explain to people why you might want to consider a certain incident antisemitic, so it provides this sort of standard, definitional tool. … It does not abridge free speech … and it is definitely nonpartisan. We've seen some support from this around the country and around the world from all sides."
In fact, Rosensweig and Bolotin have been working hard to bring the resolution to as many towns and cities across the world as they can.
Bolotin said the resolution has been adopted throughout Europe, and now the AJC is turning its attention to the U.S.
"We've seen a variety of state and city and county adoptions coming through, mostly in the last year," Bolotin said. This includes Florida, where Miami adopted the resolution, as did 10 other towns in south Florida and all of Dade County.
"Now we're looking to bring this to Illinois and get as much recognition and awareness of it as possible," Bolotin said, "and hopefully move toward things like state of Illinois and city of Chicago adoptions as well."
During the meeting, Hoskins referenced swastikas that appeared around town in late September as part of a spate of graffiti mostly featuring phallic images.
According to the police reports, the damage appeared to be random in nature and not specifically directed at the owners of the homes or vehicles on which they appeared. The cases, which occurred in a few blocks in town and appear to be related, involved drawings of at least 15 penises. In some instances, words such as the F-word or "Republican" were written alongside the images. The phrase "BLM" was included in a few of the defacements as well.
At a village council meeting after that, Hoskins said the swastika drawings would be investigated as hate crimes rather than simple graffiti.
He also said recent protests in Springfield, some involving antisemitic imagery directed at the governor, motivated his resolve to get the resolution passed by the village.
"When Jason [Rosensweig] contacted me about adopting this resolution, I did not hesitate to offer Forest Park as a testing ground in Illinois," Hoskins said.
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