To: Senate President Bill Ferguson and members of the Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee
From: Molly Amster, Maryland Policy Director and Baltimore Director
Subject: In response to antisemitic actions in 2/7/23 Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing
Date: Monday, February 13, 2023
Mr. President, Chair Smith, Vice Chair Waldstreicher, and other honorable members of the Committee,
I am writing to you to thank Chair Smith (D-District 20) for actions he took during the February 7, 2023 Judicial Proceedings Committee hearing on SB1, the Gun Safety Act of 2023, sponsored by Vice Chair Waldstreicher (D-District 18); to thank President Ferguson (D-District 46) for calling out the antisemitic messages carried and worn by gun safety opponents to that hearing; and to express solidarity with Vice Chair Waldstreicher. We and our members who were confronted with the antisemitic symbols and signs were deeply unsettled and it must have been even more chilling to see your name on the signs.
At JUFJ, we know that whether we’re walking down the streets of our neighborhoods or into a legislative hearing in Annapolis, freedom and safety for any of us depends on the freedom and safety of all of us. As both Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Emma Lazarus — the Sephardi-American activist and poet of the Statue of Liberty — said, no one is free until we are all free.
When gun safety opponents invoke the Holocaust to portray themselves as victims of oppression — as SB1 opponents did on their signs and with the stars of David they wore to the hearing — they are actively harming Jews in Maryland. The appropriation of the yellow star that Nazis forced Jews to wear traumatizes many in our community, and turns our suffering into a ghoulish Halloween costume. To use that symbolism against a Jewish politician like Vice Chair Waldstreicher, who is working to address gun violence, is simply unspeakable.
Every person — no matter our religion, where we come from, or what we look like — deserves to live with freedom, safety, and belonging. When the generational trauma of the Holocaust is misused so casually in an attempt to disrupt discussions of preventing gun violence, Jews are told that we do not belong, and we are reminded that our safety and freedom remain dangerously fragile. JUFJ applauds the condemnation that President Ferguson offered to the press, and the action that Chair Smith took during the hearing to disallow these antisemitic symbols from the chamber.
The growing power of far-right white Christian nationalist movements is fueling an increase in antisemitic violence and incidents. But Jews aren’t facing these dangers alone. Antisemitism is part of the machinery of division and fear those people rely on for power; the same machinery they use to blame Black and brown people, people who are immigrants, people who are Muslim, and more, for all of the problems we face. To dismantle this machinery of fear, we must work together in deep relationships.
Through JUFJ’s work and actions in solidarity with partners we strive to make all of our communities safer from antisemitism, racism, and other mechanisms of oppression. We are grateful to have elected leaders of all faiths who will not stand for these actions. Together we can build a state that fulfills the promise of freedom and safety for all of us, no exceptions.