Patriots owner Robert Kraft launches campaign to raise awareness of antisemitism

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AP – New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft faced the camera during a video call, pointing to a small sky-blue lapel pin on his shirt.

The pin is the symbol of a $25 million “Stand Up to Jewish Hate” campaign launched by the 81-year-old billionaire on Monday through his Foundation to Fight Anti-Semitism, which aims to raise awareness across of the country regarding incidents of anti-Semitism that are on the rise online and in person. The stars of top TV shows such as NBC’s “The Voice” and the “Kelly Clarkson Show,” and Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen” will deliver emotional ads.

“This little blue square represents the Jewish population of the United States — 2.4 percent,” said Kraft, who was raised in Brookline, Massachusetts, in an observant Orthodox Jewish family. “But we are the victims of 55% of hate crimes in this country.”

The ads aim to tug at the heartstrings of non-Jewish Americans, said Matthew Berger, the foundation’s executive director. One of the ads, which will run on Monday, shows a non-Jewish neighbor painting over a vandalized garage door with the Nazi swastika and the words “No Jews,” concluding with the message: “Only hate wins only if you let it.”

Another ad points to online hate: A Jewish teenager is shown crestfallen while trolling after posting a video of his bar mitzvah. Soon after, he sees a Harlem choir tagging along with their version of their worship song. He sings to the choir as these words appear on the screen: “Voices of support are louder than words of hate.”

Berger said the foundation worked with its creative team to find cases “that would have a specific impact and show what anti-Semitism looks like.” He said the ads will appear during the NFL draft and NBA and NHL games, as well as on social media, promoted by prominent influencers.

The launch of the campaign follows last week’s release of a report by the Anti-Defamation League asserting that anti-Semitic incidents in the US will rise 36% in 2022. 3,697 incidents of harassment, vandalism and attacks targeting Jewish people and communities were tracked last year. This is the third time in five years that the annual total has been the highest ever recorded since the group began collecting data in 1979.

The Center for the Study of Religion and Extremism, based at California State University, San Bernardino, reported last week that Jews were the most targeted religious groups in 2022 in 21 major cities, accounting for 78% of religious hate crimes.

Brian Levin, the center’s director, said he is concerned about brazen, public displays of anti-Semitism, and the proliferation of anti-Semitic tropes and conspiracy theories online. A campaign against anti-Semitism that seeks the support of non-Jews could help create awareness, he said.

“It’s so important to show that anti-Semitism is un-American,” Levin said. “If we can show non-Jews as allies, that could be powerful.”

In October, the Kraft foundation aired a 30-second ad during a Patriots-Jets game urging the public to speak out against anti-Semitism. That announcement came after music mogul Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving made anti-Semitic remarks in apparent support of an antisemitic film.

“The rise of anti-Semitism, I think, is the real breakdown of what this society stands for,” Kraft said. “In my life, I have never seen the way things are now and this hatred against the Jews.”

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Oct. 27, 2018, in which 11 people were killed in the nation’s deadliest anti-Semitic attack, was a catalytic moment in his life, Kraft said. Two months after the shooting, he attended a Shabbat service at the synagogue, the day before his team was to play the Steelers.

Kraft established the foundation a year later, after receiving the $1 million Genesis Prize, awarded to Jews who have achieved significant professional success and are committed to Jewish values. The annual award is given by the Genesis Prize Foundation.

Over the past decade, Kraft has experienced much turmoil in his personal and professional life.

In 2015, he and his team were caught up in the so-called “Deflategate” scandal. The NFL released a 243-page report following an investigation that found Patriots employees violated the league’s game ball rules and that the team’s quarterback, Tom Brady, was “at least generally aware” of it plans to deflate the footballs if he liked. Kraft accepted the team’s penalty of a $1 million fine and the loss of two draft picks.

In 2020, Florida prosecutors dropped a misdemeanor charge against Kraft after courts blocked the use of videos of him allegedly paying for massage parlor sex. He released a statement saying he was “hurt and disappointed” by his family, friends, co-workers, fans and others who “hold him to a higher standard”.

“I expect to be judged not by my words, but by my actions. And through those actions, I hope to regain your trust and respect,” Kraft said at the time.

In recent months, he has been a powerful voice against anti-Semitism. Kraft says that the spiritual values ​​he inherited from his parents, especially his father who made television and other hobbies to read the Torah.

“I was privileged to have that upbringing,” he said. “He gave me a spiritual heart that no amount of money can buy.”

Kraft hopes that the advertising campaign will help to “educate and empower all Americans to stand up against the hatred of Jews” and that the blue square he will wear on his chest will be a “unifying symbol of solidarity” in the quest that.

“I hope this campaign will raise hatred against all communities – black people, the LGBTQ community – just anyone who hates,” he said. “My hope is that this will be an effort that builds bridges with all Americans.”

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