U.S. to rally to counter hate crimes

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Those dedicated to fighting hate, including San Francisco Rabbi Doug Kahn, agree: The world has much to learn from the people of Billings.

In December 1993, the Montana community organized to support neighbors , including Jewish families, targeted by white supremacists.

Now the lessons from Billings are sparking a national movement against hate. Communities nationwide are declaring Dec. 10-17 "Not In Our Town Week," an anti-hate crime and education campaign.

Activities will coincide with the airing of the award-winning PBS documentary "Not In Our Town, " produced by the California Working Group, recounting how the people of Billings took an extraordinary stand against hate.

In 1993 white supremacists in Billings distributed Ku Klux Klan fliers, desecrated the Jewish cemetery, painted the home of an American Indian family with swastikas, intimidated African American churchgoers and hurled bricks through the windows of Jewish families displaying chanukiot.

Religious groups sponsored candlelight vigils. The local newspaper printed full-page chanukiot that nearly 10,000 residents displayed in windows in support of the town's Jews — less than 1 percent of Billings' 80,000 residents.

The campaign will include town hall meetings; classroom film screenings; a related curriculum; drives to have government bodies, religious institutions and workplaces sign petitions for tolerance.

Kahn, executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, said he intends to participate in panel discussions after the showing of "Not in Our Town," at 9 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20 on KQED Channel 9.

"I think the timing couldn't be better to involve as many people as possible in what is an anti-Balkanization statement," Kahn said. "In other words: We all live together in a community, and when one segment of the community is harmed, it harms our entire community."

"Not in Our Town" also airs at 10 p.m. Monday, Dec. 18; 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 19; and 10:30 p.m. Friday, Dec 22 on KCSM Channel 60, repeating at 11:30 p.m. that day on KQED Channel 9.