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‘Can a billboard end antisemitism?’: This nonprofit thinks it can help

Updated March 3, 2023 - 12:35 pm

If you’ve driven on Interstate 15 just north of Charleston Boulevard or on Interstate 515 just east of Las Vegas Boulevard recently, you may have noticed a bright pink billboard jump out at you amid the earthy desert hues.

One of the billboards reads, “We’re just 75 years since the gas chambers. So no, a billboard calling out Jew hate isn’t an overreaction.” The other reads, “Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But you’re not a billboard.”

The billboards were created by nonprofit JewBelong.com.

JewBelong co-founder Archie Gottesman started the organization to provide education and resources to Jewish people. But around the time of the May 2021 Israel-Palestine conflict, “Antisemitism became normalized,” she said. So Gottesman decided to launch a billboard campaign aimed at the wider non-Jewish population to enlist their help in the fight against antisemitism.

“Most people in America are not Jewish,” she said. “Most are not antisemitic, but they may not be aware of the problem. … It just raises awareness and starts conversations.”

Gottesman said billboards were chosen for the campaign rather than digital types of messaging because they are “unsiloed” and so can potentially reach anyone.

“Everyone drives on the highway, and everyone sees billboards,” she said.

Gottesman said the billboards are up in six cities across the U.S. and Canada. Las Vegas was selected as one of the six, not because of any perceived significant level of antisemitism here, but because of the high numbers of tourists who come into the city.

“Vegas is a place the whole country, the whole world, is going to,” she said. “Everywhere is important, but we try to focus … on where we can make a big splash or where everyone can see them.”

Stefanie Tuzman, president and CEO of Jewish Nevada, said she has seen the billboards, and other people have mentioned the billboards to her, but she said she’s uncertain of the resonance they’re making with the non-Jewish community in Las Vegas.

“The only people (who) have reached out to me that say they saw them are members of the Jewish community, and we want members of the non-Jewish community to see them and take note of them,” Tuzman said. “But with the type and the amount of antisemitism now, we have to come at it from every angle. … We want to get people talking about it … in an attempt to fight it.”

Rabbi Shea Harlig of the Chabad of Southern Nevada hasn’t seen the billboards and wasn’t aware they were in Las Vegas, but he said, “Anything that brings awareness to antisemitism or antiracism or anti anything is something that is positive.”

Gottesman said she believes the campaign can be effective because it offers simple solutions to fight antisemitism.

“JewBelong is not about deep dives,” she said. “People don’t want to read a book. Saying something, speaking up, calling people out, it stops people. … The holocaust wasn’t that long ago, and it started with words … it started by people not speaking out when Jews were being blamed for the problems in Germany … and that’s really scary.”

Find out more about JewBelong’s campaign to fight antisemitism here.

Contact Justin Razavi at jrazavi@reviewjournal.com. Follow @justin_razavi on Twitter.

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