Billboard campaign denounces antisemitic remarks amid Kanye West, Kyrie Irving controversy

In light of antisemitic remarks being spewed out by high-profile celebrities like Ye, previously Kanye West, and Kyrie Irving, one non-profit is hoping to denounce hate speech through a billboard campaign.

JewBelong has erected billboards in cities across the country, including three in Houston last week, with hopes to raise awareness and remind people to be kind to one another.

The billboards are located at the intersections of 610 W and 59 S in southwest Houston, 59 S and Clarewood in Sharpstown, and 59 N and Aldine Mail Route in north Houston.

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The signs are hot pink and decorated with bold messages. One billboard reads, 'Can a billboard end antisemitism? No, but you're not a billboard' and the second says, 'It's been 75 years since the gas chambers, so no, a billboard calling out Jew hate is not an overreaction. One of the billboards is also in Spanish.

Archie Gottesman is the brains behind the campaign. She serves as the co-founder of the non-profit JewBelong, whose mission is to promote religious tolerance and support for the Jewish faith.

The billboards come after high-profile celebrities like rapper Kanye West and Brooklyn Nets superstar Kyrie Irving made controversial, antisemitic remarks to their millions of followers on social media earlier this month.

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"When they put into their social media, anything that's antisemitic, honestly, it doesn't matter that they apologized for it later; the damage is done. And the antisemitic comments that we get when that happens, shoots up," Gottesman said.

"There's so much evil on social media and even if one person just says something negative, someone else who will actually do damage and will hurt people, will follow up because of what they saw: someone's words," Gottesman continued.

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents nationwide. It's a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents tabulated in 2020. It also marks the highest number on record since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.

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In Houston, those types of incidents were a recurring issue for months earlier this year when residents from Atascocita, Cypress, and the Heights woke up to find pamphlets with swastikas scattered across their homes and cars.

"People like to say well words, words don't hurt.  Words do hurt. Words can kill people. So, it's not that words hurt, words can actually kill. And words are found on social media," Gottesman said.

Currently, the billboards are scheduled to remain up in Houston for a month, until mid-December.