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Antisemitic Events in Wisconsin on the Rise

Tuesday, November 29th, 2022 -- 11:01 AM

(By Gaby Vinick, Wisconsin Public Radio) Meira Meadows was a college freshman when she and her three siblings were verbally harassed in downtown Milwaukee for being Jewish.

According to Gaby Vinick with Wisconsin Public Radio, her younger brother was wearing a kippah, the traditional Jewish head-covering, that night in April last year when they grabbed a quick bite in the city. A man followed the group down the block and hurled an antisemitic slur at them.

A few days later, her father, an Orthodox rabbi, stood on their front lawn on the phone with Meadows' grandmother. A man in the neighborhood saw him wearing his kippah, walked up and punched him in the face. Meadows' father shouted at him, but the man laughed and kept walking down the block.

"That night was the first time I've ever seen my father cry," Meadows said. The family filed a police report, but nothing came of it. These incidents were jarring for Meadows, but they reflect a growing trend of attacks against the Jewish community in Wisconsin.

Statewide, Jewish people represent less than 1 percent of the population. But from 2015 to 2021, there's been a 459 percent increase in antisemitic events, according to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, which tracks and reports those acts of hate against Jewish people. 

Like many other Jews, Yuval Lerman, president of Badger Alliance for Israel at UW-Madison, said he's encountered antisemitism his entire life. While he's frustrated at seeing it materialize on campus in various ways, he still feels safe.

"The Jewish community here is huge. It's extremely strong, and we're absolutely not going anywhere," he said. Education is one of the best ways to combat antisemitism, Jewish leaders say. They also stressed the need to forcefully speak out against prejudice and applaud those who do.

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