Statement on Neo-Nazi Demonstrators in Tampa
The Center for Catholic-Jewish Studies condemns the neo-Nazi demonstrators that gathered outside the Turning Point USA Student Action Summit in Tampa on Saturday, July 23rd. The demonstrators waved flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols, along with the state flag of Florida, and flags that read "DeSantis Country."

The demonstrators should be seen as part of the emboldened and deadly neo-Nazi and white supremacist movement in the United States. White supremacists used similar symbols and language in Charlottesville at the 2017 Unite the Right Rally, in the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue, and during the January 6th insurrection at the United States Capitol Building. The gunman charged with killing ten black people in a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in May of 2022 described himself as a white supremacist and antisemite. Antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high throughout the country, and in Florida especially. Earlier this year, a group of neo-Nazis waved swastika flags and assaulted civilians during a demonstration in Orlando. In January 2022, a neo-Nazi group made bomb threats against historically black colleges and universities including Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Holocaust history teaches that the targeting of Jews was central to Nazi racist ideology and that it began with hateful rhetoric. By the end of World War II, the Nazis and their collaborators had murdered six million Jews and millions of other innocent civilians, many of whom were also targeted for racial reasons. As the USHMM has said, "The leaders of today's Neo-Nazi and White Supremacist organizations are not Adolf Hitler, and America is not Germany, but, in order to understand their agenda, it is vital to understand the history of these code words, symbols, and ideologies."

Indeed, racist and antisemitic words and symbols divide our human family and fuel violence. The presence of neo-Nazi symbols in our cities is therefore not only a threat to the Jewish community. It is a threat to our society.

As neo-Nazi groups attempt to blend political symbols, such as the American flag and the state flag of Florida, with white supremacist and other neo-Nazi symbols, it is critical for our leaders to unequivocally denounce their activities as fundamentally opposed to everything we stand for as Americans. A Turning Point USA spokesperson condemned the neo-Nazi demonstrators. However, multiple convention speakers have yet to denounce the neo-Nazi gathering outside their meeting on Saturday.

The CCJS therefore calls upon all people, especially leaders, to speak out against these expressions of neo-Nazi ideology and especially the attempt to synthesize our political symbols with the Nazi flag. As Rabbi Jim Rudin, co-founder of the CCJS, observed today, "It's not just a Nazi flag. It's a symbol of the mass murder of six million Jews."

The CCJS was founded on the teachings of Nostra Aetate, which declared that the Catholic Church “decries...displays of anti-Semitism directed against Jews by anyone and at any time," and that “God holds the Jews most dear.” Since all human persons are created in the image of God, “No foundation…remains for any theory or practice that leads to discrimination between man and man or people and people, so far as their human dignity and the rights flowing from it are concerned."

As Pope Francis said earlier this year, what is needed in this moment is "a recovery of our sense of shared identity as one human family."

The CCJS is committed to promoting mutual respect, knowledge, and understanding through dialogue, study, and teaching.
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