ashland.news
July 21, 2024

Ashland rabbi responds to hate speech incident: ‘It actually gives us more resolve’

antisemitism rally
On Nov. 19 at the Ashland Plaza, Rabbi David Zaslow of Havurah Shir Hadash addresses a rally against antisemitism. Julia Sommer photo for Ashland.news
November 30, 2023

Plans move ahead for Hanukkah menorah lightings throughout Rogue Valley 

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

Following the discovery of bags of sand with notes linking to antisemitic websites Monday outside homes in Ashland, Phoenix, Medford and Central Point, one Ashland rabbi is responding with optimism as he looks ahead to planning Hanukkah festivities.

This year, Chanukah, as it’s also spelled, begins on Thursday, Dec. 7, and continues through Dec. 15. Rabbi David Zaslow of Havurah Shir Hadash in Ashland plans to lead his members in celebration.

“It actually gives us more resolve because Hanukkah is the story of light overcoming darkness,” Zaslow told Ashland.news in a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s a winter festival … that tells the story of a minority population in the ancient land of Israel fighting against the greater forces of the Greek Empire.”

Ashland Police Department said in a Facebook post Monday that zip-closed bags containing sand and a slip of paper with a QR code linking to an antisemitic website were found early Monday morning in a number of Ashland neighborhoods.

The slips of paper read, “It’s the Jews,” O’Meara wrote in an email Tuesday. 

“Some of the bags also had a link to a website with some general hate speech videos on it,” he wrote.

Ashland Police are investigating the incident and requesting information from the community on how it might have occurred. 

Zaslow said he heard from members and non-members about the incident.

“Any kind of action like that, or graffiti, or leaflets, just kind of represents a fringe minority on the political spectrum that is expressing their antisemitism,” Zaslow said. “Of course, since there are no threats … we’re responding to it in a moderate kind of manner.”

Zaslow referenced Temple Emek Shalom and Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon, the other two synagogues in Ashland, as continuing to have security and to be cautious, despite no direct threats being made.

Before 2015, none of Ashland’s synagogues had the level of security they have today, according to Zaslow. 

“With the rise of antisemitism around 2015 … we all realized that we needed to take special precaution,” he said. “That to me is a heartbreak because it’s protecting ourselves against a tiny minority.”

This fall, Havurah Synagogue was the recipient of a $150,000 federal grant to fortify its security, as previously reported by Ashland.news. The funds will help bolster exterior lighting, enhance its alarm system, and fortify the entrance to the synagogue with a buzz-in system with a security guard on site, Zaslow told Ashland.news in October.

How you can help
The Ashland Police Department is asking anyone with security camera recordings of the bag distribution that happened late Sunday or early Monday, or any other information about the bags, to call the department at 541-482-5211, or its anonymous tip line at 541-552-2333, or email tipline@ashland.or.us.

But Zaslow sees security measures, while helpful, as an “extra” that didn’t used to be a necessity.

“It’s just very disturbing and an example of the anti-semitism that has been growing unfortunately in our country for the last probably 10 years,” Zaslow said.

“The Jews are often blamed for the problems that people perceive in the culture,” he added.

Zaslow believes that antisemitism is not at such a high level in southern Oregon as it might appear, but that it expresses itself “through a minority of people who make themselves look bigger than they really are.”

As Jews all over the world and the Rogue Valley prepare to celebrate Chanukah, this year’s celebration will remain undeterred, according to Zaslow.

“(Chanukah) — it’s a story of hope, and we use that story and apply it in our own lives, especially when a situation like this arises,” Zaslow said.

Chabad Jewish Center of Southern Oregon will host a public menorah lighting in Ashland at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7. Menorah lightings will also be held at 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, in Medford, and at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 12, in Grants Pass. 

The events are open to the public and there will be security present. For more detailed information, go online to chabadofashland.org.

Havurah Synagogue and Temple Emek Shalom will have separate menorah lightings for their members at their synagogues.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

Picture of Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

Related Posts...

Ashland New Plays Festival announces October lineup

Four plays among 350 submitted to the Ashland New Plays Festival will be performed during the group’s 2024 Fall Festival this October. The playwrights will be in Ashland for a week of readings, development, and collaboration and will present their plays from Oct. 16 to 20.

Read More »

Latest posts

Air quality alert issued through Monday for Jackson County

Smoke from wildfires in Douglas County prompted issuance of an air quality advisory on Saturday evening by Jackson County Public Health, effective through Monday, July 22. Depending on weather patterns and fire activity, air quality could be impacted for longer, the announcement said.

Read More >

Ashland New Plays Festival announces October lineup

Four plays among 350 submitted to the Ashland New Plays Festival will be performed during the group’s 2024 Fall Festival this October. The playwrights will be in Ashland for a week of readings, development, and collaboration and will present their plays from Oct. 16 to 20.

Read More >

Explore More...

Jennie Greenberry: “Jane (Eyre) is the kind of person I deeply admire and strive to be. So, of course I jumped at the chance to portray her."
With Oregon’s public schools staring down a fiscal cliff this school year as the historic federal investment from the last few years expires, Gov. Tina Kotek is proposing changes. She’d like to help schools keep up with rising costs in the years ahead by updating the way schools are funded.
Novelist Victor Lodato will receive a financial boost to continue touring and participating in author talks for his latest book, "Honey," after being one of 29 artists to receive Career Opportunity Program grant awards from the Oregon Arts Commission.
Four plays among 350 submitted to the Ashland New Plays Festival will be performed during the group’s 2024 Fall Festival this October. The playwrights will be in Ashland for a week of readings, development, and collaboration and will present their plays from Oct. 16 to 20.
The Siskiyou Crest Coalition, based in southwest Oregon, sponsored a unique fundraiser on July 13: a day of guided hikes at a private property on Mount Ashland. The emphasis of the day's activities was on the ecological value of the Siskiyou Crest: the unparalleled biodiversity resulting from ecosystem niches influenced by six biotic regions; its importance as a wildlife connectivity corridor; and its astonishing number of endemic botanical species.
ashland.news logo

Subscribe to the newsletter and get local news sent directly to your inbox.

(It’s free)

Don't Miss Our Top Stories

Get our newsletter delivered to your inbox three times a week.
It’s FREE and you can cancel anytime.