AUSTIN (KXAN) — After Council Member Alison Alter’s synagogue was lit on fire by a man in 2021, Alter spearheaded the charge to launch a new City of Austin anti-hate campaign. It’s called “We All Belong.”
Right now, as tensions at home escalate over a war in Israel, local leaders say that message is more important than ever.
“Obviously there’s a lot of fear right now amidst the strife in Israel, that there will be hate, anti-Semitic or anti-Palestinian hate, that will surface in our community,” Alter said.
“One of the things that we know is any time there is an incident like this in Israel, that incidents of antisemitism, in particular, tend to go up,” Jackie Nirenberg, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Austin, added.
The campaign is twofold: First, it helps connect people with ways to report hate incidents, whether that be through the ADL, 3-1-1 or the police department. But the other arm aims to get people educated and involved. That includes bringing community groups to the table to host events — like a concert or a dance — where educational information can also be included.
“It’s a nice way to bring people into the tent and to inspire them to be change agents in a way that feels comfortable and much more authentic,” City of Austin Communication Consultant Alicia Dean said.
The campaign launched in July. Both the local ADL and the City said it’s too early to tell if an uptick in reporting is tied to the effort, but they do say they’ve reached roughly half a million people through their advertising for it. And they say they are tracking a number of reports, and making adjustments as they move forward.
“There’s a constant conversation between ADL Austin, and APD and community stakeholders to see how we’re doing,” Dean said.
The groups involved in the campaign said hate crimes are under-reported, something they’re trying to change. But they also said reporting hate incidents before they get to that level can help alert authorities before something turns dangerous.
“These patterns of how they happen and where they happen are extremely important and ADL shares information with law enforcement so that everybody is on the same page,” Nirenberg said.
You can find the We All Belong website, and ways to report hate incidents here. If someone is in immediate danger or property is threatened, call 911.
“We cannot devote resources to address hate if we as a city are not made aware of the instances,” Alter said.