LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – 86-year-old Raymonde “Ray” Fiol moved to Las Vegas after escaping the Holocaust.
The France native was born in Paris and three years later, World War II began. She said her Jewish family was gathered by German army men and taken to an east-France labor camp where her father eventually arranged her escape to London.
That was the last time she had contact with her parents.
“Unknown to me, my parents had already been taken to Auschwitz and murdered at the beginning of 1944,” Fiol said outside the UNLV Foundations Building Wednesday afternoon.
She spent years bouncing between Paris and London until finally traveling to and settling in New York City. Though she said she and other Jewish people were accepted there, it wouldn’t last forever.
“What hurts now is to see it all come back in full bloom,” Fiol said.
Now a Las Vegan for over two decades, she’s troubled with a national rise of antisemitism that she thought was abandoned years ago.
In January, Boulder City residents found antisemitic flyers posted on their doors. The local rise in acts like this inspired a billboard campaign across the valley rebuking the acts.
Yet, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which recorded these incidents, is finding more.
The most recent ADL report from this month found a 36% rise in antisemitic violence, vandalism, and verbal threats in 2022. Regional Director Jolie Brislin says the Nevada statistic slightly decreased during the same year, which represents 30 incidents across the state.
“We’ve seen incidents in the schools where students are walking down the hall, saying to burn in hell, go back to the oven,” Brislin said during a virtual interview Wednesday morning.
From 2020 to 2021, the nonprofit Jewbelong additionally reported a 64% increase in antisemitic incidents in Nevada alone.
The incidents have forced temples to respond with more protection.
Congregation Ner Tamid, the largest reform temple in Nevada, for one, has implemented more surveillance “within the past year,” Cantor Jessica Hutchings said.
“We’ve added more security guards. We’ve added more things that we don’t want to tell people about because it’s important that they are kept private,” Hutchings said inside the temple Wednesday afternoon. “Our services are constantly being patrolled and people are being looked after because you just never know.”
As for the teenage students she teaches there, she said Jewish youth are increasingly hiding their identity.
“They feel free to be Jewish here, but they don’t outwardly show that in the society that they’re assembling into,” Hutchings said. “We see ourselves turned back around to where it all began.”
Despite the hate, the Las Vegas Jewish community is holding on to hope for a more unified future and that history does not continue to repeat itself.
“I don’t understand how the world has not learned the lesson,” Fiol said. “You have to hope all the time. Without hope, I wouldn’t be here.”
ADL data shows 10 antisemitic incidents occur each day nationally. Brislin urges those who witness or are victims of these acts to report them as without it, programming cannot be created to combat hate.
She directs relevant people to do so via the ADL incident reporting form.