Exclusion in the broader community
December 19, 2022
But antisemitism isn’t just an issue at EPS. It affects the broader Edina community as well. Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy, founder and Executive Director of World Without Genocide and member of the Edina Human Rights and Relations Commission, noted that many instances of antisemitic graffiti in Edina have gone unpunished. “There’s a sense that [antisemitism] will be tolerated by the community. Now, I say ‘tolerated by the community,’ knowing that there are many efforts within the city structure itself in various organizations to address these overt manifestations of antisemitism,” she said. “But antisemitism is normalized. And it’s being normalized everywhere.”
Kennedy moved to Edina thirty years ago. She was hesitant about moving into the Edina community because of its history of antisemitism, most notably having aforementioned restrictive covenants which excluded Jews from the community.
On Kennedy’s first day in the city, her young daughter went home from a playdate in tears after another child told her she would go to hell because Jews don’t believe in Jesus. Since then, Kennedy has experienced numerous less-overt instances of antisemitism. “In groups that I belong to that are under the framework of the city in some way, there is almost always, from most people, an unspoken assumption that everyone is Christian, that Christian holidays are the ones that are observed. The word ‘church’ is always used in reference to faith-based institutions. A meeting of an organization of which I’m a member of was scheduled for Rosh Hashanah,” Kennedy said.
Adrienne Berman, an Edina mom, similarly took issue with the fact that Edition: Edina, a monthly newsletter published by the City of Edina and distributed to homes and businesses in Edina, included Kwanzaa and Christmas in this month’s publication but not Hanukkah. “I was thrilled that they had Kwanzaa in there, but really disappointed and frustrated and hurt that Hanukkah wasn’t there. We’ve lived in Edina for about nine years—we moved here from Canada—and it was just surprising and shocking to me over these nine years how little people know or hear about Jewish holidays and traditions,” Berman said.
Berman decided to go to City Hall and speak to the receptionist about the newsletter. “She was very apologetic, and said that it was absolutely a mistake, but it was missing. And she mentioned that there are 15 to 20 people who proofread Edition: Edina. It was shocking to me that that many people missed it, so I sort of said to her casually, ‘Maybe you need a Jewish person as part of that group,’” she said.
Berman posted the issue on Facebook and the post gained enough attention that the City of Edina Twitter and Instagram issued an apology and correction. “I think [incidents like these] start with blissful ignorance. 60 years ago, Jews weren’t allowed to buy houses in Edina, so it could be that people didn’t grow up with [Jewish people]. That being said… I think at this point in 2022 if you’re not checking multicultural holidays on Google, I feel like at that point it’s a choice that people are making to say, ‘Oh, it’s fine,’” Berman said.
Kennedy notes that the subtle moments of exclusion she has felt have left a lasting impression on her. “Over the course of a lifetime, over the course of my 30 years living in Edina, these unintentional slights begin to create a sense of otherness for me. I say unintentional, because nobody would say ‘I really mean to exclude her’…But it’s the mindset of a Christian, heterosexual, and often somewhat misogynist view of the world,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy also received personal threats for being an outspoken Jew who writes on antisemitism. She once received an anonymous, threatening email with the subject line “We see you, Jew.” “I’m always very upfront about being a Jew, and in this climate, it is becoming increasingly difficult. One might even say increasingly dangerous,” Kennedy said.