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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Athletes Join Zach Banner for Panel on Combatting Anti-Semitism and White Supremacy

Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

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Erin Ben-Moche
Erin is the Digital Content Manager at the Jewish Journal. She also covers Jewish art, entertainment and culture.

Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Zach Banner is hosting a two-part conversation titled, “Athletes Against Antisemitism” on Feb. 17 about combatting anti-Semitism, fighting for racial justice and moving forward in unity. The event is also hosted by Washington Nationals first baseman Josh Bell and Washington Mystics WNBA champion Alysha Clark.

Banner, who was behind the virtual panel idea, made headlines over the summer in a viral Twitter video where he called for an end to anti-Semitic rhetoric and for  unity between the Black and Jewish communities.

The athlete and activist has since formed numerous relationships within the Pittsburgh community — including the Challah Back Girls — in building bridges to strengthen understanding. Most recently, on Feb. 1, Banner, along with 170 high-profile figures, joined the Black-Jewish Entertainment Alliance devoted to tackling anti-Semitism and racism in the United States.

“I’ve learned so much this year about what it really means to use my platform and do the work. The tweet I posted earlier this season doesn’t mean much if I don’t continue to be engaged in the work of combatting anti-Semitism and fighting for equity,” Banner told the Journal in an email. “The community of Pittsburgh, and our whole country, has a lot of work to do when it comes to fighting anti-Semitism and white supremacy. Whether you’re an athlete, politician, CEO or school teacher, there’s a part everyone can play in that fight. I’m looking forward to this panel, which will further the discussion around what we each can do to participate in this work.”

“Whether you’re an athlete, politician, CEO or school teacher, there’s a part everyone can play in that fight.” — Zach Banner

The 90-minute program will be broken into two parts. The first will center on the Pittsburgh community, featuring Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers and Jasiri X, hip hop artist and co-founder of the activist group 1Hood. The conversation will focus on the current crisis of anti-Semitism and white supremacy, ongoing unified efforts in Pittsburgh to combat hate and important tools, resources and next steps to engage more citizens in this movement.

Myers told the Journal via email that he’s learned a number of important lessons since the Oct. 27 shooting. One of the lessons he’s learned is that ending hate speech and anti-Semitism requires work from “all of us, regardless of faith, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation.”

“I always welcome the opportunity to build new relationships and find common ground, which is why I’m so excited about this opportunity to continue working with athletes like Zach Banner,” Myers said. “Through his work on and off the football field, Zach has demonstrated not merely by words, but by deeds, that the only way to effect positive change is by working together and foster greater collaboration between the Black and Jewish communities.”

The second half of the event will feature Banner alongside Bell and Clark. They will discuss the power of athlete activism, their role and responsibility in engaging in these movements and their priorities in this work as team leaders, national figures and community members.

The program will be moderated by Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh Director Dr. Lauren Apter Bairnsfather.

“We look forward to being a part of this excellent panel to discuss an extremely important topic,” The Tree of Life synagogue said on Twitter on Feb. 10. “Words matter. Empathy matters.”

“We are so excited to be a part of this necessary conversation as we continue to build community and safety,” 1Hood also shared.

“Athletes Against Antisemitism” is presented in partnership with the Tree of Life Synagogue, the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh and 1Hood Media. The streamed event takes place on Feb. 17 at 4:30 p.m. PT. Register here for a direct link to the panel stream or watch live on Facebook, YouTube and Twitch.

This story was updated on Feb. 11 to include a quote from Tree of Life Synagogue Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers. 

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