The Rev. Michael C. Nabors and Rabbi Andrea London stand side by side at a November 2021 Fountain Square protest. The Community Lament Rally was in response to the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse, who fatally shot two people in Kenosha, Wis. Credit: Heidi Randhava

Evanston Rabbi Andrea London, of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue, was recently honored by J Street Chicago with its annual Tzedek v’Shalom Award.

The program cited Rabbi London’s unswerving dedication to her congregation and the Evanston community. Recognition for Rabbi London, who is committed to social justice issues related to the Jewish, Black, LGBTQ, women and Latin communities, brought an important spotlight to the Evanston community.

The program included words of welcome from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and a panel discussion led by U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky, U.S. Rep. Sean Casten and state Rep. Delia Ramirez. Others in attendance included Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss and state Sen. Laura Fine. It was an honor for me to be invited to attend the luncheon at the Union League Club in Chicago.

Seated as I was beside Rabbi London and her husband Daniel, the importance and symbolism of the moment did not escape me. As an African American pastor supporting a dear Jewish rabbi, there was no more important place for me to be on Oct. 27 than in a room filled with Jewish colleagues.

Recent public communication from Ye, ne Kanye (Kanye West) has made it abundantly clear that there is an Evanston narrative that must also become available to the public.

West’s vicious antisemitism has been an egregious assault on civility and humanity. After wearing matching “White Lives Matter” T-shirts with conservative personality Candace Owens at a fashion show, Kanye was widely criticized for his dismissal of Black Lives Matter. “White Lives Matter” is a popular phrase used by white nationalists.

Kanye also claimed that George Floyd died of a fentanyl overdose rather than suffocation by a police officer. Floyd’s family has filed a $200 million defamation lawsuit against him.

He went on to argue that Jewish people control hip hop mogul Sean Combs. Kanye then wrote, “death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE” on Twitter, a reference to America’s DEFCON defense system readiness scale and a disgusting threat against Jewish people.

It is not enough to simply contend that Kanye may be dealing with mental issues. Nor is it enough to laugh it off and suggest that it is “Kanye being Kanye” or “he’s looking to drop another album.”

It has been said that we must “handle words carefully, for words have more power than atom bombs.” We are seeing this power unleashed in our lifetime through social media platforms and conspiracy theories, from elected officials and even from pulpits across our nation.

Words may now be causing irrevocable damage to the spirit of American democracy, human relations and any hope for a brighter future.

Kanye’s words have evoked troubling public responses. A banner hanging over a Los Angeles freeway bridge had the sprawling words, “Kanye was right.”

During a Georgia-Florida football game in Jacksonville, the words “Kanye was right about the Jews” were flashed across the outside wall of the stadium. Other banners in Jacksonville read, “End Jewish Supremacy in America” and “Honk if you know it’s the Jews.”

At the same time this vitriol is quickly finding its way into the public arena, racist remarks are also growing. In the days since Elon Musk purchased Twitter, at least one reference suggested use of the N-word on the platform has gone up by 500%.

As disgusting and dangerous as Kanye’s words are, they are hardly different from anti-Semitic remarks spoken by former President Donald Trump. He recently warned online that “U.S. Jews have to get their act together … before it is too late!”

Make no mistake about it, this suggestion toward violence may be viewed as an act of violence in itself. While we may have once ignored such remarks and appealed to the goodwill of most Americans, times are now different.

Before being ousted from Twitter, President Trump had nearly 90 million followers. Kanye has a Twitter following of nearly 33 million. The number of his followers has grown since his latest remarks.

Masses of people are listening to antisemitic remarks from some of their “favorite people.” People are growing more emboldened and brazen in their public hatred toward Jewish people. It is both heartbreaking and sickening. And it must be stopped.

Hopefully Evanston isn’t an anomaly. The relationships built here between Black and Jewish clergy and their congregations should be lifted up before the nation.

From our respective histories of persecuted people, we are working together to build a better town. We are working together to build better understanding. We are working together, daring to dream a world where justice rolls down as rivers and righteousness as an overflowing stream. It is no pipe dream.

But in these times, we must claim our own public narrative, rather than accepting the current one that maligns and threatens our Jewish friends, neighbors, co-workers and colleagues.

Collectively, let us denounce antisemitism and racism with the same broad brushstroke of condemnation that we use against every form of discrimination.

Both Blacks and Jews, more than ever, must unite in the common cause to rescue our nation and bring reason and rationality back into the public square before it is too late.

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