Community leaders form task force to combat antisemitism, discrimination
A local rabbi saw an opportunity to form a task force to battle antisemitism and discrimination after receiving an outpouring of support from the community following an antisemitic incident in September.
Rabbi Kolby Morris-Dahary will lead the first convening of the Steamboat Team to Combat Antisemitism and Discrimination, or STAND, at the Bud Werner Memorial Library Tuesday, Feb. 28.
“My vision for this group is that it’s not going to be owned by any particular group, but it’s going to be owned by the community,” Morris-Dahary said. “I want to hear from other community leaders about how we all can use each other and each other’s organizations to provide resources and support in this work.”
On Sept. 26, during the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, a Jewish student at Steamboat Springs High School found a swastika scrawled across his car. Morris-Dahary, who had just arrived in town to assume the position of rabbi for the Jewish congregation at Har Mishpacha, was astonished by the situation. She said it was something she could not have anticipated.
Morris-Dahary witnessed the community’s response to the incident and knew she had to harness positive outreach to do something to promote change. This served as the genesis for the Steamboat Team to Combat Antisemitism and Discrimination.
She sent out some feelers to gauge the community’s interest in forming a group to combat hate. She said it did not take long for numerous public officials — Steamboat Springs School District Superintendent Celine Wicks, 14th Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen, and Steamboat Springs Interim Police Chief Mark Beckett among them — to respond positively.
Members from various groups in the community began to come forward with ideas as to how to effectively execute this task force in a manner that will make an impact.
Morris-Dahary especially credits Alissa Merage — both a member of the Jewish community and the Steamboat Springs Board of Education — for broadening her scope on this work to not just address antisemitism, but bias and discrimination at large.
Morris-Dahary emphasizes the importance of these groups in light of the “National Day of Hate” put on Saturday, Feb. 25, by white supremacist groups across the country.
“Antisemitism is a nationwide trend,” Morris-Dahary said. “All of us in Jewish communities across the country were told to be aware of what’s going on in our communities we live in because of this rise in hate.”
Morris-Dahary indicated the September incident was not the last antisemitic action the community has experienced.
“My presence here as the full-time rabbi has allowed Jewish people to come forward much more freely about things that are going on,” Morris-Dahary said.
She noted that local law enforcement officials have been huge advocates and have provided more than adequate support.
Morris-Dahary will head the first convening of the Steamboat Team to Combat Antisemitism and Discrimination, but hopes to pass the torch around to different community leaders. She hopes that this opportunity will allow Steamboat to grow to become an even more positive, aware and inclusive community.
Kit Geary is the county, public safety and education reporter. To reach her, call 970-871-4229 or email her at kgeary@SteamboatPilot.com.
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