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In Response to Hate

February 28, 2017


We were shocked.  Saturday night hundreds of gravestones at the Mt. Carmel Cemetery were desecrated.  Immediately people of all backgrounds - Jews, Muslims, Christians - ventured out to the cemetery to offer assistance.  Yesterday I participated in a gathering of close to 200 faith leaders that culminated in a press conference denouncing the vandalism on the Mount Carmel Cemetery. 

The Rev. Jay Broadnax, the president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia who sat at my table, was among the many speakers to issue a statement.  He offered:   “We must stand together, we are one community here in Philadelphia. I'm reminded of how this community came together after the incident in Charleston, South Carolina, that affected my denomination, and how many of these people stood together with us. We're proud to stand with you today condemning this act.”

Hate crimes are on the rise in our beloved country and it is natural to feel sadness, fear and anger in the face of these incidents.   Jewish Community Centers are receiving bomb threats.  Our institutions are threatened.    But we are not alone.   This afternoon our neighbors from faith communities all around Delaware County are joining together to issue a statement of solidarity following the desecration of the cemetery. My signature will be on that letter along with the signatures of Muslim, Christian and other Jewish faith leaders from our area.   I have received emails and calls from colleagues and from strangers who wish to stand with the Jewish community at this time. Peter Pedemonti, from the New Sanctuary movement, wrote to me saying “I hope you are okay.  I just wanted to email and say that we are all thinking and praying for you and all your members at Beth Israel today after the horrifying defacement of the Jewish cemetery.  Please let me know if you need anything or if there are ways to support you.”  My Lutheran colleagues assured me today that their community is praying for our community in the face of these assaults.  An anonymous message on my voicemail at BI came from a caller who said, “Shalom, I am praying for the Jewish people.  May God bless you and protect you.”   It is heartening to know that people are standing with us.

As we have stood with others.  The Jewish community has been strong in standing with others who have been under siege by hate. I am still moved by the story out of Texas where the Victoria Islamic Center was recently destroyed by fire.  The act of kindness that revived their spirits was when the leaders of the local Jewish congregation gave them the keys to the synagogue so they could continue to worship.

When acts of hate and destruction take place we invariably want to do something.  There is much that we can do at this moment.  The Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has created a pathway for donations to restore this cemetery that we can access here.  On Thursday March 2nd at noon the Jewish community and allies will gather at Independence Mall to express solidarity in light of the vandalism at Mt. Carmel cemetery and in response to the shocking increase in hate crimes that have taken place across the country.  The message is that there is no place for hate, for desecration or for violence.  The hope is that in standing together we will begin to restore a sense of security and peace.

Times like these call for ongoing acts of kindness and generosity.   The stones at Mt. Carmel will be raised and repaired.  We can help with that effort.   We can also take comfort in the outpouring of love and support that our communities have received in the face of this hatred.   Let's celebrate the spirit of solidarity coming from people of good will. Let's remember to treasure our Jewish traditions and institutions and to care for them and protect them. Let's work to be active allies to others who are vulnerable in these times of increased hatred.  Let's work daily to see the image of God in all people and to do what we can to spread goodness and understanding. 

Sat, July 2 2022 3 Tammuz 5782