May 12, 2016
Hours Against Hate urges people to pledge their time to people who live, pray, look and love differently than they do. It inspires activism and urges individual action with the goal of transcending the barriers between people. Our JCRC launched Hours Against Hate in June 2013 with an impressive list of excited partners, beginning with the Mayor of Milwaukee and including elected officials, organizations and faith communities. HAH resonates strongly with community members of all ages for three central reasons: It powerfully and boldly names hate as our common problem and allows us to see hatefulness through a common lens rather than different lenses of anti-Semitism, racism, sexism, etc.; it puts the power for social change in the hands of individuals; and it allows people to work together and transcend boundaries. Started internationally by the US Department of State, our community brought Hours Against Hate to the US and make it a community initiative. We launched a Website, www.hoursagainsthate.org, that includes a 100 ways to pledge an hour, a press kit, etc; created excellent marketing materials; a HAH pledge sheet; a conference-style HAH screen that can be used as a backdrop for photos; and an adaptable Power Point presentation. We also have an active Facebook page. Individuals can take photos of themselves with their pledge sheet and upload the photo to the HAH website. They can also add the time to our Facebook page time counter. The hours can be devoted to volunteering or any activity that helps people get out of their comfort zones. The effort is particularly powerful in Milwaukee, the most segregated city in the United States.
Advances the goals of the Jewish community relations field
HAH embodies the best of community relations because it ties together the sometimes disparate areas of our work. Not only is fighting hate in itself a compelling and important goal, but the initiative serves as a platform for building relationships, establishing shared values, and even engendering positive feelings about peacemakers in the Middle East, thereby reframing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in constructive terms that reject the BDS movement. In Milwaukee, it has already been a powerful tool for us to gently advocate and build relationships with local leaders of mainline Protestant churches that nationally vote on boycott resolutions. It has also helped us deepen our relationships with elected officials who are interested in taking on HAH as their initiative. An additional benefit is that it allows the Jewish community to talk about anti-Judaism and anti-Semitism within a larger frame that reinforces our ties to others.
Inspires creative initiatives for other communities
HAH has inspired people in the Jewish community and the community-at-large. A local synagogue pledged 1024 hours, one for each member family. Rabbis have devoted sermons to it. B’nai mitzvah have devoted their mitzvah projects to it. Teen groups are looking at ways to collectively take on a HAH project. Women’s groups have taken it on as a shared volunteering initiative.
Could serve (or has served) as a model for other communities
We crafted HAH as a turnkey program, with a website and brochure that other communities can use to engage their own communities. Locally, we have shared it with other faith communities and individual congregations. We treat HAH as a great idea that needs to be shared, and are thrilled when other organizations, local or out of town, take on HAH as their own.
Encourages new ways of thinking and have the potential to energize the local Jewish community
HAH inspires young people and social activists to be involved with the JCRC and community organizations. It strengthens our ties to synagogues by giving them a way to take action and get involved. It also reminds people — with a simple and clear message — of the prophetic charge of the Jewish people to stand up, call out hate, and work to create a better world. HAH is a simple concept but it connects deeply with our deep and inspiring Jewish charge to take action and heal the world. It reminds people who were are and helps us bring together people and communities around a powerful idea.