The mayor of Anchorage, Alaska, apologized this week after he said that some residents’ decisions to wear the Star of David – à la Jews who suffered under Nazi-occupied Europe – to protest a proposed city mask mandate is a “credit” to Jewish people.
Mayor Dave Bronson, a self-identified “center-right” conservative who opposes the mask mandate, said Thursday that he was “truly sorry” and should have chosen his words more carefully during the Anchorage Assembly’s public hearing on the ordinance, which stretched from Tuesday into Thursday.
Video of the meetings this week shows a handful of attendees wearing yellow Star of David symbols – some of whom testified against the proposed mask ordinance and also wore signs that read, “I do not consent.”
During Wednesday’s meeting, Bronson appeared to support the wearing of the Star of David, a Jewish symbol that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe during the Holocaust.
“We’ve referenced the Star of David quite a bit here tonight, but there was a formal message that came out within Jewish culture about that and the message was, ‘Never again.’ That’s an ethos. And that’s what that star really means is, ‘We will not forget. This will never happen again.’ And I think us borrowing that from them is actually a credit to them,” Bronson said, according to video of the meeting.
The Anti-Defamation League Pacific Northwest Region condemned Bronson’s remarks as “disturbing and offensive,” and called on the mayor to apologize.
“The yellow Star of David was used to not only stigmatize and humiliate Jews, but also segregate and control them during the Holocaust,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
It added: “During these challenging times of rising antisemitism, elected officials continue to deepen the pain through ignorant Holocaust analogies to COVID-19 health guidelines.”
On Thursday, the mayor apologized for his comments, saying he should have “chosen my words more carefully, and if I offended anyone, I am truly sorry.”
“I understand that we should not trivialize or compare what happened during the Holocaust to a mask mandate and I want to apologize for any perception that my statements support or compare what happened to the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, that was one of the most evil and darkest times in our world’s history,” he said in a statement.
He reiterated his apology during Thursday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting and said his administration “will not tolerate any form of anti-Semitism,” while urging those opposed to a mask mandate to stop using the Star of David. The Assembly is still considering the ordinance in public hearing.
“I understand the anger about this proposed mask mandate and I agree with that anger,” he said. “But I ask our citizens to be sensitive and understanding about the impact that the wearing of the yellow Star of David has on many members of our Jewish community. I encourage you to find some other symbol to show your opposition to this ordinance.”
The ordinance would require anyone over the age of 2 to wear a mask or facial covering while indoors in public settings or outdoors at large crowded public events.
Bronson on Tuesday spoke out strongly against the mask ordinance, arguing that it is “based on inconclusive science” and because it’s “bad policy” and “an unconstitutional infringement on the freedom guaranteed to every Anchorage citizen by our federal and state constitutions.”
“Most of all, I oppose this ordinance because it pits neighbor against neighbor, shop owner against customer, and friend against friend,” he said.
Assembly member Crystal Kennedy, who said she’s of Jewish heritage, said during Wednesday’s meeting that she did not take offense to the use of the Star of David to protest the mask mandate.
Fellow Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, however, read a message he said he received from his rabbi.
“For myself and most Jews, seeing the yellow Star of David on someone’s chest elicits the same feeling as seeing a swastika on a flag or the SS insignia on a uniform,” Dunbar said, quoting his rabbi. “It is a symbol of hate that reminds us Jews of the terror and horror we suffered. I believe it is a constitutional right to protest for your values. But I request that you do not use symbols that diminish the 6 million Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust and the survivors who would like their children not to know the nightmare they endured.”