Hate crimes across the country are affecting community members in our area

Wednesday was Holocaust Remembrance Day and the Sons of Abraham Congregation in La Crosse held a special event, but in light of recent synagogue shootings, security was high.

Because of anti-Semitic attacks, last year was the deadliest in decades for Jewish people around the world, according to researchers from Tel Aviv University.

Researchers recorded nearly 400 cases of assaults with more than a quarter of those taking place in the United States.

The Jewish community isn’t the only minority group seeing an increase in hate crimes.

Hate crimes in all areas have been increasing every year, with around 50 percent of hate crimes not even being reported, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Even though most of the incidents are taking place far away, the impact can be felt right here in La Crosse.

Rabbi Saul Prombaum with Congregation Sons of Abraham said a lot has changed since the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh six months ago.

“Before Pittsburgh, you could walk in here,” Prombaum said.

The congregation Sons of Abraham has had to increase their security for people to feel safe.

“We have locked doors now. We have cameras around the building. We have to hire security now,” Prombaum said.

With hate crimes becoming more common, Prombaum is worried some people will soon be too afraid to worship.

“What I’m seeing happen with all of these acts of violence with churches, mosques, synagogues, is people are going to start drifting away from these places, wondering, ‘Why should I be a sitting duck?'” Prombaum said.

According to the FBI hate crimes bassed on religion, race and sexual orientation increased by 17 percent in 2017.

Deb Bassett, an administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator with the Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection in La Crosse, has seen a number of incidents over the years.

“We’ve had our flags torn down two or three times. We’ve had situations where people have had cans thrown in their face from another car. There was a lesbian couple that lives here and had their house vandalized. We’ve had a couple of people who’ve been accosted on the street and beat up for no other reason than people suspected they were gay,” Bassett said.

Like the Sons of Abraham, the center has also had to increase their security.

“It just got to the point where it was obvious that it wasn’t going to stop,” Bassett said.

Prombaum only sees one way to fix the culture of hate, and it’s straight out of a movie.

“25 years ago, we were sitting in this sanctuary talking about the legacy of the blockbuster film called Schindler’s List by Steven Spielberg and we were beginning to talk about what it means to be a rescuer. Who is a rescuer?” Prombaum said.

Prombaum said even if you’re not being persecuted, you can take hate down, simply by speaking up.

“What if you’re on the school playground with a bunch of kids and somebody’s getting bullied? Do you step in as their rescuer with all of the problems that come to you from the other kids?,” Prombaum said.

He believes if we as a country stand together, nothing will tear us apart.

“We’re a country called the United States. How do you get them to feel comfortable? It’s by banding together, it’s by becoming united–not just in name but united in porpoise,” Prombaum said.

The Holocaust remembrance service will be taking place at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

As we mentioned, the synagogue’s front doors remain locked at all times for security purposes, but Wednesday night, those doors will be open as a sign to the public that everyone is welcome.

The department said the last reported hate crime in La Crosse was the racial slur that appeared as graffitied on the Bullet Cab building.

The department said there hasn’t been an increase in hate crimes in our area compared to past years and both they and the community hope it stays that way.

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