We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
— Holocaust Survivor and Nobel Prize Laureate Eli Wiesel
Since the institute’s creation in the fall of 2016, The Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity has issued, supported, and signed a number of public statements in response to a rise in hate crimes and violence against minorities, the demonization and criminalization of ethnic, national, religious, and social groups as well as the falsification of Holocaust history and antisemitism. Please see below for a complete list of public statements and calls for action:
October 21, 2019 USHMM Statement on Increased Sectarian Violence in Syria
We share the grave concern about the unfolding situation in Syria and join the USHMM in urging “prioritization of civilian protection alongside other interests in order to save lives, advance efforts to find a durable resolution, and safeguard the security of the region and the United States. A failure to prevent mass atrocities against civilians would exacerbate the humanitarian crisis and increase the risk of future sectarian conflict and terrorism.” Read here for the museum’s statement on Syria.
August 11, 2019 No Community is Safe from Racism, Hatred, and Divisive Politics
The Wolpow Institute stands in solidarity with Western colleagues Larry Estrada, Vernon D. Johnson, Karen Dade, and Victor Nolet and their public statement issued on August 9, 2019. “Community members and local institutions must become vigilant in recognizing the potential for hatred seething in our midst and reporting such evidence to law enforcement and elected officials. Together we must “join hands against hate!” Read here for their full commentary prompted by national and local incidents in the summer of 2019.
March 16, 2019 Terrorist attack on Muslim community in New Zealand
We join WWU Sabah Randhawa and organizations worldwide in strongly condemning the vicious attack on the Muslim community in Christchurch. “There can be no place in our societies for vile ideologies that incite hatred and fear. This should remind all of us of the work that we must continue to do on campus and in our communities to defeat those who seek to destroy our values and divide us. Please join me in taking time to reach out to our fellow Muslim students, faculty and staff members, and neighbors who have been impacted by news of this violence. And please reflect on what you can do to safeguard against such violence and help foster a culture of compassion and respect, whether that is calling out extreme rhetoric directed toward Muslims and other vulnerable communities, moderating your social media usage, or engaging in dialogue with people you may not know to gain understanding and learn new perspectives. Most of all, let’s please join together to make Western a community that defeats bigotry and hate in all its forms.”
December 3, 2018 USHMM Statement on genocide of the Rohingya
As we mark the 70th anniversary of the United Nations Genocide convention this week, we call on the international community to act now and in unison against the suffering of Rohingya in Burma. “The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum said today that there is compelling evidence that the Burmese military committed ethnic cleansing, crimes against humanity, and genocide against the Rohingya, the Muslim minority population of Burma….’Our analysis concludes there is compelling evidence that Burmese authorities have intentionally sought to destroy the Rohingya people because of their ethnic and religious identity,’ said Naomi Kikoler, Deputy Director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. “The Rohingya victims we work with feel abandoned. The world has turned a blind eye to their persecution – just as it did for victims of the Holocaust.” — USHMM Statement
November 25, 2018 Racist and homophobic vandalism on the campus of WWU
We join the campus community in condemning the recent vandalism at WWU. We stand in unity with those affected and reiterate, once again, that hate has no place on our campus. A Western student was arrested by University Police on Sunday, November 25, 2018, and the student is now facing criminal charges, including second-degree burglary, a felony, and malicious mischief, a gross misdemeanor. In the words of President Sabah Randhawa: “We must ensure that those who are found to have violated our policies and codes of conduct face effective sanctions that demonstrate that hate has no place at Western. I believe that the greatest thing we can do to combat the rise in expressions of hate and racism, an ugliness that is sweeping our community, state and nation, is to join forces in fighting hate with goodness, with dialogue, with education and in supporting those among us who are especially vulnerable. There is power in numbers, and I believe we are a community in which positive voices can be more impactful than the negative.”
October 27, 2018 Antisemitic murder in Pittsburgh
We join the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in unequivocally condeming today’s attack on the Jewish community of Pittsburgh and stand together with Jewish communities – locally, nationally, and internationally. We “remind Americans of the dangers of unchecked hatred and antisemitism which must be confronted wherever they appear and call on all Americans to actively work to promote social solidarity and respect the dignity of all individuals” (USHMM).
Today’s attack brings back memories “of the slaughter of nine African American worshipers at Charleston’s Mother Emmanuel Church in 2015, the killings of six Sikh worshipers at a temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, in 2014, and, of course, the bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church in 1963 that left four young African American girls dead. The violence in Pittsburgh follows on the heels of a string of attempted pipe bombings by a white supremacist who targeted frequent critics of President Trump” (Richard Cohen, SPLC).
In the words of WWU Faculty Senate President McNeel Jantzen: “Whether a student, staff, faculty, or administrator, you are not navigating these events, nor past or future ones, alone. We are all members of this Western community. We are colleagues, friends, and family to one another. We provide much needed support and encouragement, show compassion, and stand in solidarity. Most importantly though, we do these things together. In the coming days, weeks, and months my hope is that we continue to remind ourselves of this and practice it on the daily.”
October 24, 2018 WWU Trans Lives Will Not Be Erased
We stand in solidarity with our transgender community at Western as news is shared this week that the government plans to roll back recognition and protections of transgender people under civil rights law. “While legal recognition and documentation do not dictate our humanity, they can be important to safety, particularly for trans people who experience increased vulnerability due to racism, anti-immigrant bias, ableism, and classism. For those of us who are transgender, who have trans family members and friends, and who care about the trans students and colleagues in our learning and working communities, the draft memo may feel threatening, dangerous, and cruel. No memo can take away what we know is true about ourselves, our families, and our communities. Trans people, especially trans people of color, are no strangers to attempts at legal erasure. Trans people carry rich legacies of resilience. Our lives will not be erased. Trans people are beautifully, powerfully here” (L.K.Langely, LGBTQ+ Director, WWU).
April 10, 2018 WWU Holds Event to Replace Vandalized Books
In an act of solidarity with Western Libraries and many others in the campus community, the Wolpow Institute stood up against antisemitism, hatred, and bigotry by publicly welcoming the inclusion of new Jewish Studies books and other educational materials to our campus. More than 250 students, staff, faculty, and community members paid rapt attention while speakers, WWU President Sabah Randhawa, Dean of Libraries Mark Greenberg, and Professor of German and the Director of the Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity, Sandra Alfers, spoke of their resolve to oppose these acts of violence perpetrated on university property and against the people of Western. For more information on this event please go to Western Today, and for a video of the event, please click here.
March 16, 2018, Ongoing police investigation at WWU
University Police is currently investigating two incidents of antisemitism on our campus. The severity of the targeted desecration of library books in Jewish Studies sections during the last week of class during winter quarter, its intent and symbolism, is atrocious and utterly disconcerting. So is the appearance of a swastika on a poster outside a faculty member’s door. We ask anyone with information to step forward and to contact University Police. Please see the WWU press release for further information, including resources for students and staff. The institute unequivocally condemns these acts of hate and stands in solidarity with those affected.
September 2017, DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals)
On September 7, 2017, we join higher education leadership nationwide in expressing “our unwavering support for our undocumented students as well as our profound dismay over President Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program […] This program helps hundreds of thousands of young students and workers across the country, including many Western students, their families and their friends.” (WWU Faculty Senate & UFWW). The institute strongly protests and condemns demonizing and targeting our Latinx communities with policies of isolation, persecution, internment, and deportation.
August 2017, Vandalism in Bellingham and violence in Charlottesville
On August 25, 2017, we unequivocally condemn the vandalism in our own community – the display of Nazi symbolism and language in downtown businesses and schools, hate speech directed at our LGBTQ community, and the destruction of property at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship. We stand in unity with those affected.
On August 14, 2017, we join the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in unequivocally condemning the violence in light of the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virigina and the “neo-Nazi, racist, and antisemitic symbols and language used by some of the participants, including reported chants of, “The Jews will not replace us” (USHMM). Along with the Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University, “We call out the lack of leadership from the highest levels, which has fostered an environment that continues to embolden antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. As part of the hard work of rooting out bigotry in our daily lives, we encourage all to speak out against racist extremism, oppose policies that strip recent civil rights gains, and examine the incipient bias that permeates our society.” (HEF, August 23, 2017). Likewise, we are deeply alarmed by the vandalism at the New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston in the aftermath of Charlottesville. “This act is an egregious affront to Holocaust memory and Holocaust survivors as well as American society.” (USHMM, August 15, 2017) And we, once again, strongly support WWU President Sabah Randhawa’s public statement: “At Western and all universities, the power of education must show the way to genuine acceptance and understanding, a counterweight to the ugliness and violence of racism and hatred.”
March 2017, Defunding of the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism
As in December 2016, we join and support yet another joint statement by the Association of Holocaust Organizations in March 2017, which garnered the signatures of more than 100 institutions, scholars, and educators. The Ray Wolpow Institute has been a member of this association since the institute’s creation. “We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism […] We urge the US government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new agency to address this urgent issue domestically. The need becomes clearer by the day as hatred, like a tidal wave, sweeps across the nation. Cemeteries, synagogues, churches and mosques are being desecrated. Jewish Community Centers and schools are targets of bomb threats and shootings. Swastikas and white supremacist threats appear on walls and on social media. Now is the time to increase vigilance, not roll it back.” You can access the full statement here: Holocaust Organizations and Scholars Statement
March 2017, Antisemitic threats, vandalism, and violence in the US
On March 6, 2017, we renew our call for action. We support HEF’s call on elected officials “to condemn and investigate thoroughly the recent rash of antisemitic and other racially charged attacks”. “Over 100 bomb threats to JCCs around the nation, the desecration of three Jewish cemeteries, the firing of a gun into a synagogue, and multiple instances of hate speech characterized by the use of Nazi symbolism no longer may be dismissed as isolated events carried out by a fringe minority. They must be recognized instead as the actions of people emboldened by an environment seemingly accepting of antisemitic, racial, ethnic, and gender-based hatred and discrimination. The time for non-committal statements and tepid denunciations is past.”
February 2017, Holocaust denial and the presidential executive order “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry to The United States”
On February 1, 2017, we renew our pledge not to remain silent in light of a) the misrepresentation of the Holocaust in the official White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day (1/27/17), b) its subsequent explanations by the Trump administration, c) the symbolic announcement of the executive order “Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry to The United States” on the day the world remembered the Shoah and d) the growing threats and attacks against Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh congregations and communities in the U.S. and Canada. The institute strongly denounces all minority violence, prejudice, and bias directed at individuals and groups, and we call on our elected officials to do the same.
In February, we join Holocaust educational organizations across the United States in protesting “the purposeful omission of Jews and antisemitism from the official White House statement” (Holocaust Educational Foundation at Northwestern University). “Redemptive antisemitism,” a term coined by Historian Saul Friedländer, was the core of Nazi ideology, which resulted in the discrimination, isolation, persecution, displacement, deportation, incarceration and annihilation of six million European Jews. “The choice to obscure the Nazis’ primary motivation and their specific target for genocide is indeed not a remembrance at all. It is the deliberate elision of history that Holocaust education and remembrance are meant to combat. A spokesperson defended the exclusion claiming a wish to recognize all who suffered. We find this idea of inclusion is not merited by this historical example and is countered by the executive order on the same day to selectively limit admission of refugees and immigrants based on ethnicity and nationality. This is an egregious misuse of the Holocaust, and it underscores the ongoing need for Holocaust education and remembrance”(HEF).
In addition, we stand in solidarity with our undocumented students and our international students, staff, faculty, and administrators. We proudly support President Sabah Randhawa’s public statement of 1/30/2017 . “Western has had many international students and faculty in the past and continues to do so today. We strongly support our international students, faculty, staff and visitors; we benefit from their presence and the richness they bring to our community.” Please also read the following statement by the Institute for Global Engagement at WWU for more information.
December 2016, Increase in hate crimes since presidential election
Since November 9, 2016, when The Ray Wolpow Institute for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Crimes Against Humanity at Western Washington University commemorated the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has recorded more than 1,094 incidents of hate against minorities. In its spring report, the SPLC also highlights the disturbingly rapid increase of hate groups for a second consecutive year. We strongly condemn these incidents of hate, violence against minorities, and racist and xenophobic rhetoric. As WWU President Sabah Randhawa reminds us in regards to our own community “harassment and discrimination have no place at Western”. We celebrate our diversity, find strength in our differences, and pledge not to remain silent in the face of injustice.
On December 6, 2016, members of the Association of Holocaust Organizations (AHO) released a statement in which they called “upon all elected officials as well as all civic and religious leaders to forcefully and explicitly condemn the rise in hate speech and any attacks on our democratic principles.” The Ray Wolpow Institute proudly joined more than 91 other Holocaust remembrance institutions along with more than 71 Holocaust scholars and educators from around the world in signing and thus supporting this call. You can access the full statement here.