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US Jewish groups express support amid anti-Chinese sentiment

By HONG XIAO in New York | | Updated: 2020-02-25 11:18
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US Jewish communities co-signed a letter of support amid anti-Chinese sentiment fueled by fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

In response to rising xenophobia aimed at the Chinese American and Chinese communities over the spread of COVID-19, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) organized a letter of solidarity from the Jewish community on Feb 21.

"We are writing to express our heartfelt solidarity with you during these tense and troubling times. We are concerned about rising xenophobia aimed at Chinese people in this country and abroad over the COVID-19 coronavirus," the council wrote in the document titled A Letter of Support to Our Friends in the Chinese American and Chinese Communities.

The JCPA is an umbrella organization composed of 15 large US Jewish groups. Some 85 national Jewish organizations, including the American Jewish Committee, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Jewish Labor Committee and community relations councils and federations around the US signed the JCPA letter.

The "Jewish community has strong ties and deep respect for China", said David Bernstein, JCPA president and CEO, adding that many in the Jewish community have had very close friendships in the Chinese community for many years.

He said he believes it is important that the Jewish community express their support "for our Chinese American friends".

"We knew that they were receiving some harassment and bigotry about the spread of the coronavirus," said Bernstein.

The letter stated that in such times "concern can quickly turn into hysteria, which can lead to scapegoating".

"We pledge to help ensure that Chinese people feel safe and supported, and to combat attacks and stereotyping on social media," the letter promised.
"We know from history, ours and yours, that such fearmongering can be devastating," the JCPA letter said.

"We feel it’s really important in moments like this to stand with communities …being targeted," said Jackie Congedo, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, Ohio.

"We are just proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our friends in the Chinese communities. We stand ready to do whatever we can to support those communities during this difficult time," Congedo told China Daily. "Let’s focus our attention on fighting the virus and not on scapegoating people."

Even though there have been no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York City or the state of New York, businesses in New York’s various Chinatowns, especially the restaurants, have been hit hard over fears of the virus.

The letter said Chinese-owned businesses have been affected because of "misinformed concerns about the COVID-19 virus".

"Please be assured that we will strongly encourage our own community not to give in to such fears," the letter said.

The letter quoted Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, who said the danger for Americans is "just minuscule" and "there is no need to avoid Chinese people or businesses", the letter wrote.

And it mentioned that several Jewish communities have sent delegations to local Chinatowns to "show their unwavering support".

"I feel like Chinatowns in many parts of the country are suffering and a lot of Chinese business, especially in Chinatown, are suffering," said Bernstein.

Bernstein said that a group of Jewish leaders went to Chinatown in Manhattan a week and half ago to have a meal at Chinese restaurant.

"We want to make sure that we send the signal to them that we are there to support them," he said.

"The Chinese and Jewish communities share much in common, including a commitment to the highest ideals and welcoming spirit of America," the letter said.

"We in the Jewish community are more committed than ever to upholding these ideals and ensuring they are extended to you, our friends and neighbors," it added.

The letter concludes by saying: "We know many of you are concerned about the health of relatives and friends in China. We offer our thoughts and prayers."

Bernstein reiterated that this is a very challenging time for Chinese people. "Please let your readers know that the Jewish community sends its best wishes to the Chinese people," he said.

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