CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Last year, Gov. Greg Abbott directed the newly named Texas Holocaust, Genocide and Antisemitism Advisory Council (THGAAC) to create a report about antisemitism in Texas. The report should come out every two years before the next legislative session. The groups first report is ready to be presented to the legislature in January.
“Seeing the report was definitely concerning, to see that on paper,” said Rabbi Naftoli Schmukler of Chabad Coastal Bend.
The report looked at dozens of data ources and came to find instances of antisemitism are on the rise in Texas.
The Secure Security Network reported attacks against Jewish communities in Texas more than doubled from 2020 to 2021. The Anti-Defamation League reported seeing an increase from those years as well. Evidence suggests those numbers will increase again at the conclusion of 2022.
According to the FBI, in 2019 hate crimes against Jewish people made up 63 percent of all hate crimes against religious communities.
The Anti-Defamation League shows the majority of incidents are classified as harassment from 2021. Some notable physical attacks were the burning of a synagogue in Austin and when a gunman held a rabbi and his congregants hostage at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas.
The group will make recommendations to the legislature on how to address this in two ways. Recommendations on actions the council can take and recommendations the legislature can take. Among those recommendations are expanded Holocaust education, antisemitism training for staff at colleges and universities and the creation of a grant program for religious entities to increase security infrastructure.
“Action should be taken by government and all agencies that are able to do things, but the greater answer is to make a difference by when you’re faced with darkness you increase in the light. And, most people are inherently good,” Schmukler said.
As a leader in the Corpus Christi Jewish community, Schmukler believes Corpus Christi doesn’t fit this data. Outside an instance where a man made a gesture towards him, Schmukler hasn't expressed any hate towards his religion.
"Most people that I've personally encountered here in Corpus (Christi) in the south Texas area are very positive towards the Jewish people," he said. "They have a very good outlook and a very good perception of the Jewish people and very good interactions and relationships."
Because he wears traditional Jewish garb, Schmukler does get people to approach him and often ask questions, which he welcomes.
“They’ll come over to me and tell me how much they love the Jewish people and how blessed they feel that I’m living in the community," said Schmukler. "And, how what a blessing it is to have us here. And, I feel like that’s heartwarming, that’s welcoming and I see them the same way.”
The report points to social media being a contributing factor to an increase in antisemitism. When an event happens like the Colleyville hostage situation or Keller ISD temporarily banning Anne Frank's Diary, antisemitism comments rise on social media.
Schmukler believes this is only a loud minority.
“When you have a certain free feeling ability for people to say things that they maybe would otherwise not say prior, it sparks other people who have a weakness in that area," he said.
Schmukler is a believer there is good in everyone.
"That's why it really goes back to education," Schmukler said. "Just like if someone could say something negative that could ignite maybe some more negativity. If someone says something positive or does something good, they ignite goodness and kindness around them. And that has a much greater power."
Schmukler points out we are approaching the holiday of Hanukkah, which is the festival of lights, and hopes this is a time people will show their light to overcome darkness.
Rabbi Schmukler invites anyone and everyone to the third annual Car Menorah Parade, the kickoff of Hanukkah. It starts at Swanter Park at 4 p.m. Sunday with the main event at Water Edge Park at 5 p.m.
To read the full antisemitism report, you can find it here.