CHARLESTON, W.Va. – United States Attorneys Will Thompson and William Ihlenfeld joined with leaders from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Pittsburgh Division and the American Jewish Committee (AJC) yesterday for training in response to rising antisemitism.
Charleston and Wheeling synagogues co-hosted the joint training session, presented by AJC and part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s United Against Hate (UAH) Community Outreach Program.
Thompson, Ihlenfeld and other speakers noted that planning for this training had begun well before the Hamas terror attacks and resulting conflict.
“This event was essential well before October 7, and is certainly essential now,” Thompson said. “Whether it is anti-Jewish hate, or anti-Muslim hate, or any other form of hate, we must and we will stand against all of it.”
“Hate-fueled crimes were a problem prior to October 7, and have only gotten worse since that day,” Ihlenfeld said. “This training provided a great opportunity to share information about the nature of the threat and the resources that the Justice Department brings to bear.”
The training aimed to enhance the understanding of the problem, identify effective responses to hate incidents, and empower people to speak out.
“This training was filled with invaluable information for the community,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall. “With antisemitism and hate crimes on the rise, these are serious crimes that not only affect one person, but an entire population and community. The public plays an important role in these cases. They are our eyes and ears in the communities we serve. We are constantly working to address these threats locally while focusing on building a relationship of trust and maintaining open dialogue so the community knows they can come to us with something suspicious or threatening.”
The training featured a message of perseverance and strength from Rabbi Jeffrey Myers of the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the target of the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. Myers spoke of the 2018 terrorist attack and its continuing impact as well as the overwhelming response from an already supportive community.
“What an incredible message that was, and continues to be to the rest of the world, that when people care deeply about each other, so much is possible,” Myers said. “I am someone still with hope that despite the horrors I witnessed that day, that we are able to find ways to be together, that we can rebuild community.”
The training included an overview of the trial and conviction of the Tree of Life assailant. It also included the subsequent guilty plea in the Northern District of West Virginia from a self-proclaimed white supremacist who targeted jurors and witnesses, including first responders, through threatening social media posts, website comments, and emails during the trial.
AJC leaders provided examples of antisemitism and how they can invoke ancient and medieval stereotypes, dehumanizing language and other falsehoods. They also cited recent polling of U.S. adults that found that the overwhelming majority, 91 percent, identified antisemitism as a problem for everyone that affects society as a whole.
“Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem. Period,” said AJC Washington Regional Director Alan Ronkin. “It is a societal problem. And when people recognize that, we can be a lot more effective in standing up to anti-Jewish hate.”
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia.