Skip to main content

Susan Turnbull: Hate has no home in Maryland

An eternal flame burns in the Hall of Remembrance at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. In Hebrew, Holocaust Remembrance Day is called Yom HaShoah. This year Holocaust Remembrance Day begins in the evening of April 17 and ends in the evening of April 18. Getty Images photo by Drew Angerer.

By Susan Turnbull

The writer is a social justice activist, former state Democratic party leader, and has held leadership positions with Jewish Women International, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and the Jewish Social Service Agency of Washington, D.C.

Many people reading Maryland Matters over the last month were focused on a myriad of issues specific to this year’s session, I usually fall into that category. But that’s not what I am writing about today.

I have been ruminating on something for the last month after waking up one day to find my inbox full of articles and statements about the unprecedented rise in antisemitism nationally which was documented in a newly released report by the Anti-Defamation League. It has weighed on me ever since.

Not a week has gone by in the last several months when something reminds me that we are witnessing a change — a new manifestation of a centuries old problem. We cannot ignore it.

Remarks by our Lt. Governor Aruna Miller and First Lady Dawn Moore reflected the concerns of their guests when speaking to a gathering of Jewish legislators and friends at a Passover celebration at the governor’s residence last week. Of course they spoke about their conviction to be supportive in every way possible. Clear to everyone gathered was that it is in their hearts and minds, too.

Swastikas on desks in schools across Montgomery County, ugly violent graffiti showing up on trails, threatening insults and scary behavior in a local supermarket are a weekly occurrence. I didn’t get the baggie filled with racist antisemitic screeds on my front porch, but I did get an unwanted piece of mail only sent to Jewish households.

When the Jewish Community Relations Council held a breakfast in December you could not ignore the robust police presence. My sons had attended nursery school at that venue — seeing the security response was both chilling and heart-breaking. The Potomac synagogue where the breakfast took place was literally surrounded by multiple police cars all morning with uniformed police officers standing in strategic places in the venue. I also noticed that some of our Jewish elected officials had new or enhanced personal security as well.

After the event, the police and security presence were the first thing mentioned in every conversation. Every speaker talked about a need to “do something.”

This is out of control.

For three years I served on the board of Integrity First for America, which was the nonprofit supporting the lawsuit filed against the white nationalists who inflicted serious harm in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017.  My work with IFA meant that I listened to the entire trial when it was held in the fall of 2021. It was a wakeup call for me to recognize how the insidious networks of white nationalists choose to dehumanize and terrorize people. Our goal with IFA was to bankrupt them and for some of the individuals and organizations we did just that.

Antisemitism is an alarmingly growing element of a societal problem of “othering.” It is increasingly evident that the white supremacy calls that “Jews will not replace us,” are a concerted effort to flame old hatreds.

We even just learned that the National Guard airman arrested on charges of leaking U.S. intelligence reportedly shared a video of himself making antisemitic and racist slurs before opening fire on a target. Wherever you look, a new incident has been uncovered.

At the same time, media personality screeds and a lowering of the standards at Twitter have drastically changed the character and reach of the attacks. Antisemitic posts have increased in astronomical numbers. Another ADL report explains that 1 in 5 Americans now believe 6 or more antisemitic tropes — double the number in 2019.

According to the FBI, Jewish hatred has become the number one religious-based hate crime. According to the recent Anti-Defamation League report, there were over 109 incidents in Maryland last year where there were only 39 reported incidents in 2018. From 2021-2022 there was a 100% increase.

If you ever thought the distress in our community is overblown, think again. The facts and the headlines document the problem.

But it isn’t up to Jews alone to speak out. That’s why Governor Wes Moore’s initial statement following the ADL Report release was a welcome one. He didn’t waver and called out the issue immediately, releasing his comments within hours of the ADL report’s release.

“I want everyone in Maryland to hear me clearly — hate has no home in our state. The recent rise in hate crimes against the Jewish community is absolutely unacceptable,” Moore (D) said. He continued by strongly condemning these actions and explaining that, in an effort to safeguard Marylanders, the governor proposed historic public safety investments in the budget, including $5 million to protect Marylanders against hate crimes.

Having allies and security hardened targets is an essential start, but we also need education and this enlightened leadership to address the underlying systemic causes of “other-based” hate. We have to get to the core of this scourge.

Fortunately, a bill passed last week from Del. Joe Vogel (D-Montgomery) that will be signed by Gov. Moore will create the Maryland Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention, a critical tool to take concrete steps for a coordinated response. Housed in the Maryland Attorney General’s Office, the Commission will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders. It will produce documented findings for the legislature and our state agencies with distinct policy recommendations. Serious action steps are the goal of this Commission.

The good news is that I have every confidence that our governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — each of whom has experienced race-based hate in their lives — will be advocates for this comprehensive action. They “get it” and are committed to not only a security response but a comprehensive effort that includes educational opportunities to combat hate. Building a public-private partnership with the organizations and coalitions engaged in stemming this problem is imperative.

My religious teaching has always guided me. From Pirkei Avot: “While we are not obligated to complete the work. Neither are we free to desist from it.”

We all need to speak like our governor and others have been doing for weeks with a clear voice. Hate has no home in Maryland.


Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our website. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

If you have any questions, please email [email protected].

To republish, copy the following text and paste it into your HTML editor.


Creative Commons License AttributionCreative Commons Attribution
Susan Turnbull: Hate has no home in Maryland