In May 2021, Luke Moon became aware of a pro-Palestinian rally that was going to take place on a Saturday in Teaneck, New Jersey. Moon is the Deputy Director of The Philos Project, an organization established in 2014 to promote positive Christian Engagement in the Middle East.
“Teaneck is home to a very Orthodox Jewish community and they were told to avoid confronting the rally and to stay home,” Moon said, recalling how he realized that since the event was going to happen during Shabbat, religious Jews would have not been able to respond anyway.
“I decided to go not as a mere observer, but to protest the rally,” he explained. “I prepared a sign reading ‘I stand with the Jews and Israel’ and held it. It was me on one side of the fence, and 250 Palestinian activists on the other.”
The experience left a deep impression on Moon, who started to think about how he could get more Christians involved in the fight against antisemitism.
In the next few months, the Philos Action League was established, a group devoted to creating a community of Christians committed to showing up in solidarity with the Jewish community when an act of antisemitism happens.
“Our Executive Director, Robert Nicholson, likes to use the term ‘incarnational advocacy.’ This notion implies that it is not enough to use a hashtag or post denouncing antisemitism on social media,” Moon said. “It is crucial to show up physically.”
The project was officially launched during the Jewish festival of Hannukkah in 2021. Since then, it has responded to some 160 acts of antisemitism across the United States.
Every time that the Philos Action League becomes aware of an antisemitic attack, it springs into action, sending its members to present the local Jewish community with a bouquet of white roses.
“Our members are always happy to help, we have a response rate of over 80%,” said Moon.
The choice of flower is not a coincidence, as pointed out by Hannah Garces, who coordinates the project.
“We were trying to figure out what the symbol of our movement should be,” she said. “We picked the white rose to honor a resistance organization called the White Rose active in Nazi Germany. They were Christian university students and young adults who saw what was happening and wanted to educate and stand up against the hate that was coming from the Nazis.”
The leaders of the organization were eventually executed.
“We wanted to pay homage to their legacy, and we are doing the same thing today, standing up to the antisemitic hatred that we’re seeing here in the US and around the world,” Garces added.
Among others, Philos brought flowers to the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council after a member of the community was attacked. In Waukegan, IL, a Philos member brought roses to a vandalized Jewish cemetery and hand-delivered them to one of the families whose family gravestones were damaged. When antisemitic graffiti was found in downtown Seattle, a member delivered white roses to the Chabad in Downtown Seattle. In addition, members of the Philos Action League hosted a protest at the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly in Louisville, KY, when the assembly was going to vote on whether Israel is an apartheid state.
Moon and Garces explained that Philos’ interventions have been deeply appreciated, especially in areas where the targeted Jewish communities are smaller than in big cities and a show of solidarity makes a big difference.
Currently, the Philos Action League has around 2,500 members and growing.
“There has been a long history of animus between Jews and Christians for most of the last 2000 years,” said Moon. “In the past 70 years, relationships have warmed, friendships have been built and trust increased.”
According to Moon, there is concern that Christians will go back to the old ways, considering that statistics show that, for example, solidarity with Israel among Evangelical Christians is much more common among the older generations than among the younger generations.
“This is a historic moment,” he added. “There’s a verse in the New Testament that says, ‘it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.’ The root referenced there is Israel, the Jewish people, and the Jewish Bible.”
“We have our work,” he concluded. “I don’t consider antisemitism in the same way that I consider other forms of hate because the Hebrew Bible to me is the blueprint for how we treat each other.”