Rising antisemitism and Islamophobia post-October 7
In Wisconsin, the predominant religion is Christianity, but there are communities of other faiths across the state.
Since violence escalated on October 7th between Israel and Hamas, both Jewish and Muslim communities locally have faced mounting bigotry.
The Jewish population in Wisconsin is small and mostly concentrated around Madison and Milwaukee.
However, there’s the Mount Sinai Congregation in Wausau, which serves the Northwoods region.
Ed Miller is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science at University of Wisconsin- Stevens Point.
“There has been, just like the rest of the nation is experiencing, a rise in antisemitism. And so we've seen some of this in Wisconsin, including Central Wisconsin and northern Wisconsin,” said Miller.
In the past year in Wausau, antisemitic leaflets have been distributed on two separate occasions.
Most recently, on Halloween, three men dressed up in antisemitic costumes and handed out pamphlets blaming Jewish people for the pandemic, communism, and controlling U.S. politics.
“There's certainly a concern about violence because we see this all over the country, increasing violence against Jewish organizations, synagogues, and other organizations,” said Miller.
He said that most local organizations have had to reinforce their security measures.
Governor Tony Evers was part of a coalition of governors calling on Congress to increase funding for security for places of worship amid rising bigotry.
The Islamic Society of Central Wisconsin has a mosque in Marshfield and in Wausau.
In an email to WXPR, they said that they stand “firmly against Islamophobia and antisemitism” and that they “call for unity and solidarity in building a more peaceful and inclusive society for everyone.”
Representatives from mosques in Central Wisconsin declined interviews due to scheduling restrictions.
Janan Najeeb is the founding member and current Executive Director of the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition.
Najeeb, a Palestinian-American, explained that Islamophobia spiked after 9/11, during the presidency of Donald Trump, and again after October 7th.
“We are finding ourselves where Palestinians and Arabs and Muslims have just been dehumanized to the point that we're watching a genocide take place in front of our eyes, and you are seeing minimal, minimal care by national officials, by elected officials, by the national media.”
46 organizations statewide, including the Milwaukee Muslim Women’s Coalition, have formed a new group called the Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine.