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Sandy Springs mayor advocates for education and understanding to combat antisemitism


Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul shared his thoughts and impressions from his recent trip to Israel. (Photo by Bob Pepalis)

Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul told city residents everyone has a role to play in combating hate that leads to antisemitism as he shared his impressions from a recent trip to Israel at the Studio Theatre on July 8.

Paul made the trip to Israel in mid-June with 12 other U.S. mayors under the sponsorship of a global organization called the Combat Antisemitism Movement. No city funding was involved.

The group visited Kibbutz Be’eri, the first community attacked after Hamas militants crossed the border from Gaza, and met a woman who survived the Nova music festival attack.

During his remarks, Paul suggested that something such as the Marshall Plan, in which the U.S. provided economic assistance to help rebuild Europe after World War II, would be necessary to effect change in Israel and Gaza. After Oct. 7, Israel launched a bombing and ground campaign in Gaza in response to the attack. The United Nations has reported that over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed since Oct. 7, along with over 1,200 Israelis.

Paul said it was important to understand the world still has a lot of hate and the local community has work to do to defeat it.

“It’s not something that we can kind of sit on one hand and hope that it’ll get taken care of. We all have a role to play in making sure that particularly our children learn what hate leads to,” he said.

Antisemitism is called the oldest ethnic hate in the world, he said. But hate is not limited just to Jewish residents. Paul said in his presentation that he’s seen hate up close growing up in rural Alabama during the Civil Rights era, where there was strong opposition to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The audience was attentive throughout the two-hour forum and asked questions during a Q&A session after the mayor’s presentation. (Photo by Bob Pepalis)

The only way to defeat a person’s belief that something is wrong with another person because of ethnicity, religion, appearance, or some other factor is education, Paul said. The penultimate end of teaching hate and perpetuating hate ends in the destruction of people as happened on Oct. 7.

“It’s the same  whether it’s antisemitism, whether it’s racism, whether it’s anti-Muslim. There are good and bad people in all of those categories,” he said.

That’s one of the reasons Paul said he fought so hard to bring the Anne Frank in the World exhibit to Sandy Springs. He said students can see the results of hate and antisemitism at the Anne Frank exhibit and, hopefully, learn a valuable lesson.

The city and the mayor are working with the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust to get its state memorial, which will combine a new museum with the Anne Frank in the World exhibit, built on a site in Sandy Springs. Two years ago that site was to be city property on Blue Stone Road. However, a different site has since been identified that Paul hopes can be announced soon.

“I think it’s a perfect location for it, and the Holocaust Commission feels very comfortable with where we’re going,” Paul said.

He said it’s important to stand up for the truth and understand it, something he was trying to do with the trip and his presentation.

“We want Sandy Springs to be a community that welcomes people of all types, that they feel safe, that they feel welcome, that they feel appreciated, and that’s what we’re trying to do,” he said.

He supports the First Amendment and people’s rights to make remarks that make other people uncomfortable. But if someone goes too far and gets threatening, the police department will step in to make sure violence doesn’t occur in the city.

Sandy Springs values are tolerance, welcoming, and acceptance, he said.

The presentation can be viewed on YouTube.





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