Alma Hernandez (26), a Democrat from Tucson, AZ, is the first Jewish Mexican-American woman elected to the Arizona State House. Her brother is also a state representative in South Tucson, and her sister is on the school board. She grew up in a nonobservant intermarried family. She connected to Judaism as a teenager, has held leadership positions in several Jewish organizations and recently became a bat mitzvah.
We are providing the unfiltered opinions of voters interviewed for this project. Those views are based on their understanding and perception of facts and information from a range of sources. In some cases, that information may be misleading or incorrect.
How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitism in America?
The rise of hate attacks against Jews in our country is appalling. It’s not only the shootings and stabbings but the fact that in my synagogue we have to have a police officer during Shabbat services. We’re living in a time where we feel so unsafe to be Jewish in our community that we have to pay a law enforcement officer to stand outside of our shul. That for me is the most frustrating thing of all. You can’t even live a normal life when you feel that you’re constantly having to watch your back.
What do you think is fueling the current increase in anti-Semitism?
I think it’s the result of a lot of political rhetoric, unfortunately. It really encourages those who are already hateful towards Jews to feel empowered to bring more anti-Semitism to our country.
Do you mean rhetoric coming from President Trump or are you talking about the left as well?
Honestly, I think it’s from both sides. Although I don’t like Trump, and I’ve never supported him, he didn’t create anti-Semites. They were already there. He’s just empowering them and white supremacists in general. On the other side, people think that anti-Semitism has nothing to do with being anti-Zionist. But I think they’re wrong. There’s a line where anti-Semitism crosses with anti-Zionism. It’s very clear that in a lot of situations people are going after someone because they don’t believe in their stance on Israel or they just don’t want Israel to exist.
Do you think that the problem is being addressed adequately by the presidential candidates?
I don’t think so. Even after the stabbings last Hanukkah, I didn’t see a strong enough response from anybody. They said they were sorry and that it was horrible and that it should never happen again. But no one said “this is what I’m going to do to combat anti-Semitism in this country. This is my plan against hatred and violence.” I don’t see that coming from anyone. At the end of the day, it is the duty of elected officials to stand up and let people know that anti-Semitism won’t be tolerated. Quite frankly, I don’t see anyone taking such a strong stance against it.
So, what do you think can be done?
On the state level, people like me who care about the issue and are legislators are introducing bills. And that’s the reason why I dropped the anti-Semitism definition bill for the state of Arizona. We didn’t have a definition of what qualifies as anti-Semitism here. I got 82 sponsors for that bill out of 90 representatives, which was a big, big deal.