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SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah House of Representatives unanimously passed a concurrent resolution Wednesday condemning antisemitism, as acts have risen across and state and nationwide.
Several recent antisemitic incidents in the state served as inspiration for the HRC15, which is sponsored by Rep. Doug Owens, D-Millcreek, and Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo.
"We know that kind of thing is abhorrent and antithetical to the spirit and the people of this state. With this resolution, which is supported by a governor, we express our support for our Jewish friends. We recognize the Jewish community's tremendous contributions to our history and we pledge our intention to root out antisemitism and hate wherever we find it," Owens said Wednesday.
During a press conference held prior to the bill's passage, former state lawmaker Patrice Arent said that her synagogue has hired security for religious events and religious school, adding "our children are escorted to classrooms by security officers, by police officers."
Arent relayed a list of incidents that painted the rise of antisemitism not only in the United States but across Utah.
"You see swastikas — the iconic symbol of the murder of 6 million Jews — etched in local synagogues, and swastikas in other locations in Sandy, in Holiday, in Logan. You see them in Park City schools. Recently a classroom at the University of Utah was Zoom-bombed with antisemitic images and language. There was a bomb threat to my synagogue. There have been protests at the governor's mansion with a swastika on a flag," Arent said.
She pointed to Utah tech company's co-founder Dave Bateman's email filled with antisemitic language and conspiracies. Bateman wrote in the email that "the Jews" are behind the COVID-19 vaccines and part of a "sadistic effort underway to euthanize the American people." Additionally, Bateman added that Jews were trying to infiltrate the Catholic Church. Bateman was asked to resign following the release of the email, and he did.
"These incidents are real. That is the reason the Utah Legislature needs to condemn antisemitism," Arent said.
Acts of antisemitism are approaching a historical high, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked incidents in the U.S. since 1979. That number is reinforced by FBI statistics, which show that despite Jewish Americans being approximately 2% of the population, there are more hate crimes committed against Jews than all other U.S. religions combined.
On Jan. 15, the rise of antisemitism was brought further into national attention as four people at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, were taken hostage by a gunman. The standoff lasted approximately 10 hours and ended with gunfire that left the gunman dead.
The incident furthered fears in the Jewish community and marked the ongoing rise of extremism. Just days before it happened, a joint statement by Jill Sanborn, FBI National Security Branch executive assistant director, and Department of Justice assistant attorney general Matthew G. Olsen warned the Senate Judiciary Committee of the rise in domestic terrorism.
"The threat posed by domestic violent extremism and hate crimes is on the rise in recent years, as evidenced by the horrific attacks in Pittsburgh, El Paso, and Charlottesville, and many other plots or threats that have been disrupted. The number of Federal Bureau of Investigation investigations of suspected domestic violent extremists has more than doubled since the spring of 2020," the statement read, in part.
A 2021 poll from the Anti-Defamation League shows 63% of Jewish Americans said that they felt their synagogue was less safe than it was a year ago. Among those are Utah's Jewish community.
Rabbi Avremi Zippel also spoke at Wednesday's news conference, sharing some of Utah's recent antisemitic incidents. But he wanted to reinforce the idea that those incidents weren't and aren't representative of Utah.
"I always felt important is to share the message that those acts, those episodes, those incidents: that's not Utah. That doesn't speak to the values of who we are as a state," Rabbi Zippel said. "HCR15 is exactly who Utah is, what Utah is, and what Utah stands for."
Despite the resolution sending a strong message, Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, expressed regret the resolution was needed at all.
"It's regrettable that we have a resolution like this, that these things should not happen in this state," Handy said. "And we heard account after account of incidents like this, and I would call on all you Utahns to show decorum and decency and good manners and tolerance."
The resolution now moves to the Utah Senate for consideration.