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Activists fighting back against antisemitism with a blue square

Is a blue square popping up on your social media feed? Here's what it means.

WASHINGTON — A non-profit foundation is launching a major campaign against antisemitism, featuring hundreds of social media influencers and celebrities in an effort to fight rising hate crimes against Jewish people. 

The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism's new campaign, which uses the hashtag #StandUpToJewishHate, is centered around a simple concept: a blue square. It's all meant to mobilize Americans, especially those who aren't Jewish, to stand up against antisemitism.


The hope is that the blue square icon, one of the emojis built into every smartphone's keyboard, will be an easy-to-recognize symbol for standing up to Jewish hate. 

Advocates also wanted something simple that could be shared across social media platforms.

"It was easy to access and something that could be a subtle, yet powerful way for people to express their support and their solidarity," Matt Berger, the director of FCAS, explained in an interview.

The blue square campaign, which launched Monday, is being funded by a $25 million investment from New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is Jewish. 

Part of that money will go toward airtime for TV commercials during popular timeslots, including "The Voice" and "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen."

The campaign's branding draws comparisons to the #Blackout movement in 2020, where Instagram users posted black square photos to protest against racism and police brutality. 

Berger said antisemitism should be viewed with the same seriousness as discrimination against other groups who have seen rising support against hate in recent years. 

"If you're somebody who is thinking about working toward solving racism, gender inequality, LGBTQ rights ... rights for Asian people and Latino people, what we're saying is the Jewish community and the fight against antisemitism is part of the same conversation," he said. 

The blue square campaign is aimed at raising awareness of the fact that antisemitism is on the rise in the U.S. 

Although Jews make up only 2.4% of the U.S. population, FCAS estimates they are the victims of 55% of all religious-based hate crimes. 

One commercial for the campaign lays this fact out using the blue square, taking up 2.4% of the screen before ballooning up to 55% to represent the amount of hate experienced by the relatively small Jewish community. 

As the campaign kicked off Monday, Kraft was sporting a blue square pin in Arizona at the NFL owners' meetings. The Foundation to Combat Antisemitism has also launched a website for people to request a pin to show their support. 

A report released Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League cataloged 3,697 antisemitic incidents in 2022. That number is the highest tallied by the ADL since they began tracking antisemitism in 1979. 

But even with those overwhelming numbers, many Americans may not view antisemitism as a major issue. 

Wunderman Thompson, an international research firm, found that more than half of Americans don't think anti-Jewish hate is a major issue in the country. Around 45% believe Jewish people are “more than capable of handling issues of antisemitism on their own.” 

For Berger and FCAS, that's the big issue. 

"Most people don't realize that antisemitism is a growing problem in this country," Berger said. "It's not that they're choosing to ignore it, it's that they don't recognize that it's something that needs to be on their radar screen." 

Two of the commercials produced as part of the campaign show direct action being taken to combat blatant antisemitism. 

In one, the neighbor of a Jewish mother and her daughter sees a swastika painted on their garage when they leave home. By the time they return later in the day, someone has painted over the swastika, with the mother silently noticing paint on the man's boots. 

In another, a Jewish teenager's Bar Mitzvah singing of a Jewish prayer draws anonymous hate messages online, until he gets a message from a choir group saying they were inspired by his prayer and wanted to sing it as well. 

"We want people to, above all, see and call out antisemitism when it happens in their community, to not be bystanders but to be upstanders," Berger said. The same way that they would speak out, or we hope they would speak out, if they saw racism ... or they saw a woman being harassed, (or) any other type of motivated harassment or discrimination, we want them to address antisemitism the same way." 

The commercial featuring online hate is an especially topical one for the campaign. According to FCAS, more than 70% of Jewish Americans dealt with hate online in the past year. That stat, coupled with the massive popularity of apps like TikTok and Twitter — where posters can remain anonymous behind their screen names — means that FCAS is looking to "reach (people) where they are," according to Berger. 

"Where they're going to get media, to engage with their friends, is also a hotbed for (antisemitism)," he said. "We want to make sure that they're seeing that this dangerous issue lives within the platforms that they're using every day, and that they have an opportunity and a role to play in addressing it." 

Although Jewish hate is on the rise in the U.S., there's no singular cause behind the increase — no neo-Nazi group or white nationalists are the single catalyst behind the attacks. Instead, antisemitism is growing partly due to the belief in non-credible information and stereotypes, the ADL says. 

According to another report by the ADL, 20% of Americans believe six or more antisemitic tropes.

Credit: ADL

"Although the link between antisemitic attitudes and antisemitic activity has not been proven, it would not be surprising if some antisemites have become emboldened to act on their hatred in the current environment," the ADL's report on antisemitic views in America states.

With the blue square campaign, Berger hopes to cut the threat of violence off at the source, pushing people to both second-guess their own antisemitic thoughts before they turn into actions and police those around them to prevent hateful ideologies from spreading. 

"When hate goes unchecked, it can lead to violence. It can lead to real problems for our society and for individuals," Berger said. "We're hoping that we are going to really make an impact in lowering the number of antisemitic incidents in our country by raising awareness and drawing out those who we know will do the right thing when when when they have the knowledge and the opportunity to do so."

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