What do you do if someone says they intend to cause you harm but you’re unsure of the seriousness of the threat?
What should a community do if it’s the target of a threat of violence from a known hate group?
Late last month, Canada’s Jewish community was on high alert after the media reported on plans for a so-called “National Day of Hate” for Feb. 25. That’s when neo-Nazis and white supremacists supposedly intended to stage antisemitic rallies and distribute anti-Jewish literature in multiple locations in the U.S. Advocacy groups, lawmakers and law enforcement sounded the alarm, leading to news about the Day of Hate going international and viral on social media in the days leading up to it. As the sun set for Shabbat that Friday evening of Feb. 24, many Jews worried about what the morning would bring.
Fortunately, for all concerned, the Day of Hate passed without incident. The posts promoting it originated on Telegram, the encrypted instant messaging service often used by extremists. The furor around it and criticism the Jewish community and its allies have since received highlight a difficult question — how should Jews respond to rumours of planned antisemitic violence without possibly causing undue panic or amplifying the haters’ agenda?
In the end, the Day of Hate proved a perverse hoax, evoking similar odious stunts in the past. In 2021, panic around National Rape Day and National School Shooting Day went viral on social media, and for good reason — the mere suggestion of co-ordinated days of violence is terrifying. Although their threat ended up being bogus, much like the Day of Hate, they did cause real fear and anxiety.
So, how should the Jewish community respond to rumours like those about the Day of Hate? At the risk of spreading fear, we must address even the possibility of a co-ordinated attack on our community. Failure to do so would be the height of negligence.