October 6, 2023 – Recently, our City has been the target of antisemitic hate speech, both in the form of flyers in our Downtown and during the virtual public comment portion of our Council meeting this past Monday.
At Monday’s City Council meeting, both community and Council members spoke out against recent harassment targeting Jewish, LGBTQAI+, and BIPOC communities.
B’Nai Israel Center’s Rabbi Bochner said, “If anything, it strengthens my resolve for our community to engage in outreach and education and be a resource for people to learn about each other.” He invites interested community members to learn about Jewish culture and their Jewish neighbors at any of their upcoming events, which are open to all regardless of faith. As a new resident of our City, he shares, “What has consistently attracted me to Petaluma was not only the music and food, but the feeling of it being both a small town and inclusive community, with Jewish roots that go back 160 years. What happened does not dissuade me from that belief. The question is not, ‘How do we stop the 1% of people who think like that?’ It’s, ‘how can we mobilize the other 99%?’”
Rabbi Bush from Chabad Petaluma echoes a similar sentiment regarding the Council disruption. “It’s easy to hide behind a screen… Light is more powerful than darkness and love is more powerful than hate. It’s up to the rest of us to decide what we want our community to be like. We can use this as a catalyst for coming together more fondly and in a more committed way.”
Petaluma is proud to be a diverse and inclusive community and stands firm in our commitment to protect all of our community members. Rather than amplify the voices of anonymous individuals on the internet who may or may not be residents of Sonoma County, the City of Petaluma wants to take this opportunity to celebrate who we are:
– A City proud to have a Jewish community dating back more than 160 years: one the
oldest Jewish community between San Francisco and Portland, OR.
– A City proud to have an LGBTQAI+ community that is out, proud, and deeply connected to all aspects of our shared community life.
– A City proud to have 22% of our residents (and 35% of our school-aged children) who identify as Hispanic or Latin American.
– A City so invested in serving each other that we have over 400 registered nonprofits in Petaluma’s 14 square miles.
This hate speech has no place in our community and is contrary to our shared values of unity and inclusivity and our City Goals, which include “A Safe Community That Thrives.” In June 2022, we launched the Petaluma Safe Space program to help provide refuge for community members who feel they may be experiencing a hate related incident, and we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all businesses, schools, places of worship, and nonprofit organizations to take part by signing up at https://cityofpetaluma.org/safe-space/.
The City will introduce a resolution on the October 16 Council agenda condemning hate speech, racism, and acts of extremism. At this time, the City is suspending virtual participation by Zoom at Council meetings and will re-evaluate at a future date.
Mayor Kevin McDonnell said, “The City Council passed a resolution in 2017 supporting the human, constitutional, and other rights and freedoms of people in Petaluma, and our commitment then remains just as strong and today. We vigorously oppose messages of hate designed to intimidate Petalumans and others based on their status, including, but not limited to their race, faith, background, or sexual orientation.”
To that end, Petaluma will continue to stand strong against hate in all its forms. We look forward to sharing the City Council’s upcoming resolution against hate, and in the meantime, we also invite Petalumans to spend a little extra time this fall doing what we do best: getting to know your neighbors, looking out for those in need, and celebrating the diversity that makes our City such a vibrant, welcoming, and wonderful place to live.