NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

Mayors David Holt, Breea Clark join national initiative to battle anti-Semitism

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]
Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman]

Two Oklahoma mayors recently joined an initiative aimed at combating a rise of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence across the country.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt and Norman Mayor Breea Clark joined the Mayors United Against Antisemitism initiative, a partnership between the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the American Jewish Committee, a Jewish advocacy group.

Joel Schwitzer, regional director for the American Jewish Committee, said the Mayors United Against Antisemitism initiative was initially created five years to combat the growth of antisemitism in Europe.

Schwitzer said a rising tide of anti-Semitic rhetoric and violence on American soil propelled his organization to relaunch the effort with the key focus on battling anti-Semitism in the U.S. He said the initiative was relaunched on Jan. 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

As of Friday, more than 200 mayors around the country had joined the joint initiative, pledging to declare "unequivocally that anti-Semitism is incompatible with the democratic values that are at the very bedrock of our society." Mayors taking part in the effort signed a statement vowing to do their part to fight such bigotry.

Schwitzer, who is based in Dallas, said hate crimes against Jewish communities made up the majority of religious hate crimes in the U.S., according to recent data released by the FBI. Also, he said it was important to acknowledge a rise in anti-Semitic rhetoric and incidents from right-wing extremists.

"This alarming rise in antisemitic incidents led us to relaunch this campaign," he said.

Roberta Clark, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City, said social media posts about Holt's decision to become involved in the initiative have drawn interest from numerous members of the local Jewish community.

"I believe that Mayor Holt has expressed and not just expressed, but modeled, the importance of diversity and respect for all. I know he reaches out to all groups and I know that he makes himself accessible to everyone so it does not surprise me at all that he felt this was an important statement to make. I'm very grateful and I know members of the Jewish community are very grateful for his leadership on this," she said.

"If you think that injustice is wrong, if you think it is occurring, you have to appropriately stand up and speak out so that people know that you don't agree with them and that it's not OK."

'Pandora's Box' of hatred

Clark said the mayors' efforts to raise awareness are needed.

She said the Anti-Defamation League's audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 showed there was a 12% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. She said the Jewish advocacy organization's tracker of anti-Semitic incidents as of 2021 includes several pages of reports of anti-Semitic and racist vandalism, harassment and assault incidents across the country.

"These incidents are of great concern. We saw with the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol anti-Semitic and racist messages on things that people were wearing and things that people were carrying. This messaging, many of us are so offended by it and what it stands for, but I think there are people who see it and are fired up by it and agree with that thinking. They somehow feel that, whether it's a social media thing or something as horrible as the insurrection at the Capitol, the Pandora's Box is open and they can show their true feelings and express their hatred because they're seeing other people express their hatred," Clark said.

"So whether it's in real life or it's on social media, it's pretty frightening because I really believe that when gone unchecked, hateful thoughts lead to hateful words, lead to hateful actions."

Restating stance against bigotry

Holt said the effort to combat anti-Semitism and bigotry fits in with his mission as an elected leader of Oklahoma City.

"I think it just fits in really well with at least a couple of my core values as mayor. One has been working really hard to make sure that every one feels welcome in Oklahoma City and that extends to all different kinds of diversity — obviously ethnic diversity but also religious diversity. I've been pretty passionate about that type of issue for some time," he said. "I want everyone to know that anti-Semitism and bigotry in general is not accepted in Oklahoma City."

Holt said he posted his involvement with the initiative on Facebook and he saw that some people wondered if this issue was something that needed to be emphasized because anti-Semitism is obviously wrong.

The mayor said he wished that were the case.

"The other core principle is that sometimes I find that we still need to restate what seems to be obvious truth especially with what has happened in the last few years with the obvious rise in white supremacy in the country," he said.

"Maybe it's obvious to us but apparently it's not obvious to everybody, so let's draw a line in the sand about where we stand when it comes to bigotry and anti-Semitism. Let's be very clear and on the record and public about our positions. That way we continue to create an ecosystem where that stuff is just not socially acceptable."

Meanwhile, Norman Mayor Breea Clark said she has had the opportunity to work closely with Jewish students and residents in the Norman area and she considered the Hillel Foundation at the University of Oklahoma, a Jewish organization, "a wonderful partner."

"After the horrible anti-Semitic graffiti that took place in our community in April of 2019 as well as the recent horrific events at the U.S. Capitol, it’s important to make it very clear that I stand strong against anti-Semitism," Clark said in a statement.

"We are constantly working to build an inclusive community, and Norman residents need to know that I support our Jewish community here in Norman and around the nation."

Faith Editor Carla Hinton edits The Oklahoman’s Spiritual Life section, and covers faith and spirituality plus other topics for the newspaper and Contact her with story ideas and comments at Please support her work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a subscription today at

Related Photos
<strong>Roberta Clark [The Oklahoman Archives]</strong>

Roberta Clark [The Oklahoman Archives]

<figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Roberta Clark [The Oklahoman Archives] " title=" Roberta Clark [The Oklahoman Archives] "><figcaption> Roberta Clark [The Oklahoman Archives] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Breea Clark [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] " title=" Breea Clark [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Breea Clark [Doug Hoke/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//" alt="Photo - Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] " title=" Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt [Chris Landsberger/The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Carla Hinton

Carla Hinton, an Oklahoma City native, joined The Oklahoman in 1986 as a National Society of Newspaper Editors minority intern. She began reporting full-time for The Oklahoman two years later and has served as a beat writer covering a wide... Read more ›