Members of the Sioux Falls community rallied against hateful messaging targeting Jewish people on the last night of Hanukkah on Sunday after anti-Semitic posters were hung across town in late November.
Two posters were found near a fire station and had anti-Jewish messaging including a Nazi swastika, according to a statement from South Dakota Voices for Peace.
"They were covered up or removed as quickly as they could be discovered, but even the first sightings were enough to evoke deep responses in our Jewish community and among our friends and allies," Jen Dreiske, the Mt. Zion Board President, told the small crowd assembled in the parking lot of the First Congregational Church. "These signs are intended to create fear and we will not let them achieve that purpose."
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There were 8,366 incidents of extremism or anti-Semitism in the United States in 2020 and 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League's Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, Terrorism map.
Dreiske said that the Sioux Falls Police Department responded quickly to removing the signs.
Holding the rally on the last night of Hanukkah was also symbolic of celebrating the eight-night long holiday. Hanukkah celebrates the triumph of light over dark when the Jewish people were able to win a war against King Antiochus, who had desecrated the holy Second Temple in Jerusalem. Each night of Hanukkah, a candle is lit on the menorah, symbolic of how oil, only meant to last one day, burned the menorah's candles for eight days during the cleansing of the Second Temple.
Many of the community leaders who spoke Sunday talked about unity within the community to stand against hate against various under-represented communities.
"We cannot be a strong community if we have parents who are scared to send their children to school," Taneez Islam, the executive director for South Dakota Voices for Peace, said. "We have to come together and this is what that looks like."
Islam is also running for mayor of Sioux Falls in the April election.
"The goal of the anti-Semite is that we be less Jewish," Mendel Alperowitz, a rabbi with the Chabad of South Dakota, wrote in a statement read during the rally. "Our response today, and everyday, is that we will be more Jewish."
During the rally, Dreiske addressed next steps for the community including standing with under-represented communities, holding those who spread hate accountable and reporting incidents of hate to South Dakota Voices for Peace and the police.
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This article originally appeared on Sioux Falls Argus Leader: Sioux Falls rallies against anti-Semitism on last night of Hanukkah