ST. LOUIS – You might notice some new billboards with shocking messages around the St. Louis area. It’s part of a national campaign to raise awareness about antisemitism.
JewBelong, a nonprofit that aims to make Judaism accessible and fight antisemitism, has put up billboards with four new messages around the St. Louis region.
Archie Gottesman, co-founder of JewBelong, tells FOX 2 that antisemitism has been growing in the United States over the past two years. The billboards are part of an effort to not only combat that, but also lower barriers to entry for anyone interested in learning more about Judaism.
“A way to make people aware of the issue is billboards,” said Gottesman. “People see them, we put them on main highways, they’re pink and white, and they say pretty shocking messages.”
One billboard on I-170 & Woodson Road reads, “Can a billboard end antisemitism? No. But You’re not a billboard.”
Another billboard on I-70 & Lucas and Hunt Road reads, “Judaism: Come for your girlfriend. Stay for the lack of Hell.”
There are also billboards with messages on I-70 near Hughes Boulevard and I-64 near Jefferson Avenue.
When we say something like ‘It’s been 78 years since the gas chambers. So no, a billboard calling out antisemitism is not an overreaction.’ People are like, ‘Wait, what did that say?’”
According to JewBelong, Missouri experienced a reported record 30 antisemitic incidents in 2022. Gottesman said many people are unaware that antisemitism is growing.
“The antisemitism that JewBelong receives is, it’s pretty horrible,” said Gottesman. “We have people say, ‘Hitler should’ve finished the job, and JewBelong in an oven.’ We need to bring it to their attention, and we need to bring it in a brave way, in a bold way, in a way where we’re not scared that not everyone loves the way that we’re doing it.”
The ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents found there was an 88% increase in the number of incidents of antisemitic harassment and vandalism in the St. Louis region (Missouri, Southern Illinois & Eastern Kansas) from 2021 to 2022.
“Our general feeling is that any attempt to promote understanding and counter intolerance is a positive step,” said ADL Heartland Regional Director Jordan Kadosh.
The billboards went up last week and will stay up until Sept. 24.