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Gov. Pritzker addresses antisemitism, “crisis of morality” during COVID-19 pandemic

SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Gov. JB Pritzker says Illinoisans have to work together to stop hate speech. The governor spoke about recent acts of antisemitism and extremism during the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Chicago Region's virtual luncheon.

Many have seen the posters brought to Reopen Illinois rallies last month, some comparing Pritzker to Adolf Hitler. Others had large swastikas on display and called the Jewish governor a tyrant. While the COVID-19 pandemic has created a medical and financial crisis across the world, Pritzker says we also face a "crisis of morality" with acts of antisemitism, xenophobia and racism on the rise.

He argues national leaders, specifically President Donald Trump, have allowed the hateful actions to become normalized.

"We live in a time where euphemisms and dog whistles are thrown about as replacements for racial epithets and are used as weapons against those who don't look or pray or think like those who attack us."

Pritzker notes the COVID-19 pandemic offered a new outlet for people to spread hateful speech.

"Watering down the most painful lessons of history and slinging them at anything you disagree with is the fastest way to forget the past like the horrors of the Holocaust."

Reasons for hope

As one of only 26 Jewish governors in the nation's history, Pritzker says he is disturbed some people find these actions acceptable. He hopes the hate will come to an end as soon as possible.

"As we watch actions of hate surge in the physical world and online, there are many reasons to feel despondent. But, I really do believe that there are many reasons to feel hope."

Pritzker says recent protests for change in the criminal justice system gave him that hope for the future. He also notes Illinois is becoming more diverse in terms of leadership. Several Black leaders hold some of the highest roles in state government including Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton and Attorney General Kwame Raoul. The governor is also working with religious leaders to fight extremists and individuals opposing inclusion.

"The commitment of these leaders to offer empathy and humanity to our fellow Illinoisans allows me to believe the side of justice will always be the side of victory."

AJC Chicago Region Executive Director Laurence Bolotin says Illinois is fortunate to have leaders working to create an inclusive community.

"We are also grateful to have in Governor Pritzker a leader in the fight against antisemitism, dating to well before he was elected to office," Bolotin added.

Pritzker led the campaign to build the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center that opened in 2009.

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Mike Miletich

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