‘Words Matter:’ Illinois Holocaust Museum Responds to Recent Antisemitic Speech and Demonstrations

On Oct. 24, Skokie-based Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center issued a statement regarding recent antisemitic comments by Kanye West (who currently goes by ‘Ye’), which spurred harmful demonstrations in his favor on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles on Sunday by a hate group.

According to The Washington Post, the group in Los Angeles “hung a banner on a highway overpass that read, ‘Honk if you know Kanye is right about the Jews,’ while offering Nazi salutes to oncoming traffic.”

Earlier this month, West held a controversial YZY fashion show at Paris Fashion Week where models wore “White Lives Matter” shirts. He made antisemitic comments, including conspiracy theories, during an interview with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, and was then locked out of Twitter and Instagram after he posted that he would go “Death Con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE.” This was just the beginning of his offensive outbursts.

This isn’t the first time West, who revealed in 2018 that he suffers from mental health issues, has used his voice for hate. This time, he is facing some major consequences; his talent agency CAA has dropped him, JPMorgan Chase has terminated him as a customer and Balenciaga has cut ties.

Adidas, which produces the popular Yeezy sneakers, made the decision to terminate their massive partnership on Oct. 25, after West disparaged company executives by name and said in a Drinking Champs podcast “I can say anti-Semitic things, and Adidas can’t drop me. Now what?” Adidas said West violated the company’s “values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness.” The action will force the company to take a $246 million hit to fourth-quarter sales.

Many are speaking out to condemn West’s actions, including the Anti-Defamation League, and Endeavor CEO Ari Emanuel, who wrote in an op-ed for the Financial Times that West’s behavior does not excuse him from making racist remarks. “Millions of people affected by mental illness do not perpetuate hateful ideologies. Others brush his comments off as just words, but hateful words far too easily become hateful actions,” he wrote.

West’s ex-wife Kim Kardashian, long silent on his actions, finally issued a statement on Oct. 24.

Locally, Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center, which is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Holocaust and education on human rights, has also responded to the recent events. Read the museum’s full statement below, and learn what you can do to counter this hate.

“Dear Museum Community,

Words matter – but who says those words, and where, can catalyze previously unspoken hatreds and prejudices into dog whistles and calls to action. We have seen this repeatedly when antisemitic tropes and language are bandied about by the rich and famous, and we see it once again with Kanye West.

Since at least 2020, Jon Minadeo Jr. has been hanging hateful signs along the 405 freeway in Los Angeles and posting antisemitic flyers in the North Bay area. He and his hundreds of followers online have stoked false and harmful accusations about Jews, and he has accosted visitors to a Chabad Center in Marina Del Rey with conspiracy theories and vile speech. While his actions have not been unnoticed, they did not receive national attention until this weekend, when he and his group decided to claim West’s words as their own.

By linking their project to West’s recent racist outburst on social media regarding the Jewish people, they are using his fame and cultural cache to advance their own outrageous and unacceptable claims. As the Museum noted in its response to West’s original posts, “Often beginning with words, hatred can accelerate quickly into actions when left unchecked.” Here we have proof. Minadeo and his followers see they have a powerful ally in West and will use this association to get attention.

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center was built by Survivors who stood up when signs and messages just like Minadeo’s were brought to Skokie, Illinois. Our founders knew firsthand that when the powerful shared such messages, it gave approval to those waiting for an excuse to commit violence and discrimination. Hatred was accelerated. We must not let it do so again.

To that end, we encourage you to connect with our resources to help you and your community learn more about the dangers of silence and how to become an Upstander. You can begin by downloading our Confronting Hate Toolkit to see what steps you can take on a personal level. With our shared voices, we are stronger than the hate we are witnessing today.”

How to Help:

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center

Give to the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center to help further their mission of preserving the legacy of the Holocaust by honoring the memories of those who were lost and by teaching universal lessons that combat hatred, prejudice, and indifference.

Interfaith America

Interfaith America, founded by civic leader Eboo Patel, inspires, equips, and connects leaders and institutions to unlock the potential of America’s religious diversity. With support of donors and partners, they are building a nation where people of different faiths, races, worldviews, and traditions bridge divides and find common values.

Hand of Peace

The interfaith organization “empowers American, Israeli and Palestinian youth to become agents of change.” They believe in the same freedoms for all, including freedom from discrimination and fear and violence. Donations go towards their education programs and community engagement.

Interfaith Action of Evanston

The non-profit strives to build a just community, and stands “in solidarity with those in our midst who are frightened, feel marginalized, or feel disrespected.” Contributions help pay for supplies at their Hospitality Center, warming centers, soup kitchens and events that promote interfaith dialogue and understanding within the community.

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